We’d stopped in front of College Hall at the statue of Benjamin Franklin to take a quick picture of our daughter, who’s thinking of applying to study at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania.
An older gentleman walking by said to me in a distinctive Greek accent, “So, is she the candidate?” The face was more than a bit older, but I recognized the voice at once. It was Tony Tomazinis, a Penn professor of city planning I remembered from my time there, way back in the 1980s.
We talked and laughed for a few minutes and I asked about one of his colleagues, my mentor, Seymour Mandelbaum. “He passed away last week,” he said, eyes downcast. Unsure I’d actually heard what I thought I did, I stuttered and choked through an “Excuse me?” Yes, he said, Seymour had died suddenly. The department was distraught.
We shared some memories and said our goodbyes and Tony walked on.
Seymour was a great human being – a wise person, a deep thinker, a brave writer. He was also a kind and gentle soul. He was at ease with himself and others, funny, warm, kind, challenging.
Had I visited Penn a year earlier, or even a month, I might well have stopped by to see Seymour, a professor and mentor who’d made a substantial contribution to my life. I hope he knew what he’d meant to me, for I likely never told him directly – a boneheaded mistake I now regret deeply and, for Seymour’s memory if nothing else, hope never to repeat.