Oded Goldreich [Nov 2003]

Letter read at a party in Honor of Shimon Even

It will not surprise anyone who knows either me or Shimon if I say that Shimon had a tremendous influence on my life. Needless to say, Shimon leads the handful of researchers that has most influenced my professional life. But he also fits in the set of dozen people (including my parents...) that have most influenced my life at large.

It is already more than twenty years since I have graduated, but I still identify myself firstly as his student. Let me give an example (and Shimon will laugh at the sight of me giving an example - that's the one thing he was sure that he failed to teach me): So, a few weeks ago, after a talk I gave, some guy came to me with a question. I started my answer by saying "my adviser, Shimon Even, would say...." (The specific quote, which is one of my favorites, is when a problem looks natural to me, I don't need a specific application.) In general, at times I hear myself expressing an opinion, and only later do I realize that it is either actually Shimon's opinion or is "just" strongly influenced by his views and attitudes, which I have mostly adopted. Needless to say, Shimon did not force his opinions on me. It is just that his opinions and attitudes were so appealing and were expressed or manifested so compellingly, that one would need a very good reason not to adopt them.

As opinionated and "full of attitudes" as Shimon is, few people are so accepting of The Other and the different. He may strongly disagree with you and still (as long as your opinion is legitimate) you will clearly sense his deep respect of your autonomy as a human being. Unfortunately, this can be said of very few people...

My observation regarding strong disagreements with Shimon is based on real experience. I still vividly recall one thing on which we have strongly disagreed. I did not do what he expected me to do, and it was very painful for me to sense his disappointment. But at the same time, I also felt his deep respect of my decision. It did not ease the pain of disappointing him, but it did prevent me from feeling even worse...

I was asked to tell some story about Shimon, but I regret that I cannot do it. There are far too many stories and I cannot possibly pick one. Maybe it is also characteristic of Shimon (as a great person): You cannot reduce him to a single angle or story, because this will miss the point which is the whole. I feel fortunate to be among the ones who's meeting with Shimon has left a life-long mark in their personality and have his image constantly present in their soul.

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