Bill’s comments reminding us that we stand on the shoulders of giants prompts me to offer a public thank you to him for extending to me a warm welcome to the world of AFIT long ago. (I had the pleasure of offering brief thanks in private last April in San Francisco.) Fresh out of graduate school three decades ago, I and a friend submitted a paper proposal which was accepted and the work to produce said paper thus began in earnest.
My friend and I were associated with institutions far apart (midwest and southwest) and internet communication was not so easy then. (A rational agent probably would have devoted the time it took to craft that paper to an unfinished dissertation instead.) We managed to get it done although it was submitted late. At that time I of course had no idea that such was perhaps not that unusual.) At the conference in Albuquerque, we spent an afternoon (quaffing Tecate) in the bright spring sun and paring the rather-large “ finished” paper (a rather vitriolic attack on orthodoxy--oh how original) down into a presentable form and deciding which of us would present which parts. Decisions were made and it was time to save the document. My laptop (with majestic monochromatic LCD display and very large battery) ran out of “juice” before the save was completed. We’d failed to notice the low battery warning. Was it the sun rendering the screen nearly unreadable or was it the Tecate or was it some linear combination thereof? I’ll let our neoclassical brethren model that one. (Nota Bene: My preferences are frequently not well-behaved.)
Needless to say we were in deep excrement and, I was already scared witless. I’d read and admired Bill’s work and the thought of him critiquing our work was horrifying. And now, it would invariably be presented badly too. The paper was part of the Louis J. Junker memorial session. I’ll confess that I had no idea if there was much significance to that. That was the least of my worries.
It’s show time. I’m sweating...and it ain’t because this midwestern boy is unaccustomed to summer heat in April. Bill walked in moments before the presentation–looking even more intellectual than I’d imagined–and quickly introduced himself and the session. He began with a brief vignette as to who Louis Junker was and what he was about, and I steeled up for the upbraiding I expected would follow. To my utter surprise (and great relief), he instead crafted a narrative–on the spot--suggesting that Louis would have been really happy to attend the session and see that younger scholars were keeping the tradition alive, challenging orthodoxy in intellectually hostile times.
Presenting the paper suddenly became considerably less frightening I thought it went over pretty well. Bill’s comments were generous and supportive–and it appeared he’d actually read the paper as he referred to some passages therein and extolled the virtues thereof. Pretty heady fare for a couple of youngins. A couple years later I timidly asked Bill if he would be willing to participate on a panel devoted to the teaching of heterodox ideas and he graciously agreed without hesitation. I think folks genuinely enjoyed the give and take which the session precipitated. (Personally, it more than offset the dismay associated with my being trapped in an elevator in the Denver conference hotel and thus missing entirely the opening cocktail party.)
Over many years I came to meet Marc, Dale, Anne, a few Johns (Adams., Harvey and Watkins among others), Edith, Gladys, Randy, Yngve (I still miss him), Charlie, a “Blues Man” masquerading as an economist, and a whole lot of other genuinely interesting and intelligent folk.
We indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. Correctly or otherwise, in my mind that has always connoted those who have passed. Regardless, there are giants still very much amongst us and I think it might serve institutionalism well to more frequently recognize/celebrate that in a non-ceremonial way. So. Thanks again, Bill. May you live long and continue to rattle the cage.