They don't call him "youthful Hedberg" for nothing! Young Ken

In 1976 there was symposium to celebrate Ken’s 75th birthday. It was attended by a number of his colleagues from all over the world. There were many laudatory comments, and, at the banquet, I felt that it was necessary to provide some balance. The following is an excerpt from my remarks, most of which are as relevant today as they were then. I have added some comments to update them

Ken 1“Today we have heard many recollections from people who have been associated with Ken over a period of more than 40 years. One has to remember, however, that memory is selective and that these recollections have been improved by time and distance.

“Some of us have had the opportunity to associate with Ken on a day-to-day basis for a long time; between Joe Nibler and me this comes to well over 40 years [now, over 70 years]. I have to say that we see a different person.

“Ken is a real presence in the department, even though he is more than 10 years into his retirement. [Still true, even at 25 years.] His ancient green Volvo is to be found in the parking lot first thing in the morning and it’s still there late in the evening. [The famous Volvo has been replaced by a Mercedes that his son gave him, and “first thing in the morning” has been replaced by “late for morning coffee break”, usually accompanied by complaints about the lack of parking at 10:30.]  Ken is doing what he likes to do, which is research, and enjoying it thoroughly [still].

Ken 2“As we know, advancing years bring knowledge and wisdom, and this has been the case with Ken, [and 15 more years has added greatly to this store]. He knows everything. What is more, he is not stingy with his wisdom, and is prepared to share with you, without provocation, his arguments as to why calories are superior to Joules as units, or his advice on how you should invest your money, which wines you should drink, what kind of terminal you should have for your computer, and many other important bits of information on how to survive modern life. [One of the most important and useful bits of this wisdom is what I refer to as Hedberg’s Law: “Blank spaces on bureaucratic forms have to be filled in with something, but it doesn’t matter what”.]

“There are, however, other people in the department (who shall remain nameless), whose misguided view of reality differs from his. Ken is not at all reluctant to point out the errors in their perceptions, and one often finds him the center of lively discussions as differing views are aired. [Fortunately, heated as they may be, none of these has ever led to blows.]

Ken 3“Secretly, we all admire Ken [and hope that we will still be standing when we get to his age]. What we see is someone who, although well into retirement, has kept not only his hair, but his vigor [although he now complains mightily when he gets out of a chair] and enthusiasm for science. Some of us can’t hope to match him in all of these particulars [Who among us can even hope to still be funded by the NSF, to take a cruise down the Danube, and to go snorkeling in Hawaii in our 90th year?], but we look forward first to following his example and second to meeting again in 24 years [100th birthday, now not so far away], when we can be sure that Ken will still be the most lively person present.”

Darrah Thomascomic