I am very honored to have been asked to make a few remarks on this occasion. Lucien's scholarly accomplishments are well known. But at this time I don't want to attempt to survey the ways in which his work has shaped the evolution of the discipline of statistics. Let me just say that we are making efforts to put together some of his most fundamental papers in a memorial volume, and we will shortly be making his interesting unpublished work available on our website.
So rather than talk about his scientific accomplishments, I want to say something about his presence in the department, both intellectual and social. Lucien was a great character, and as one of our founders, his character shaped that of the department. Certain aspects of that character especially stand out for me:
Independence: In his research, Lucien followed his own unique path with great dedication and determination and with little regard for what was deemed "fashionable" at any particular time. The depth of his contributions is due largely to his unique and creative perspective and of course also due to his doggedness in rigorously elucidating it. I think that many in the department, both faculty and students, were inspired by his independent attitude and that one of the strengths of this department has been in fostering this kind of outlook.
Integrity: Lucien had firm beliefs and he didn't hesitate to speak his mind. This got him in trouble sometimes and there were lots of people who didn't agree with him. But you knew where he stood. Again, I think that the department has benefited greatly from his example of frankness, directness and aversion to sweeping important issues under the rug. Our strength and vitality is dependent on our willingness to confront issues as honestly and clearly as we can.
Generosity and Compassion: his generosity and loyalty to his students in particular is reknown. Lucien typically stood up for those who were relatively powerless. He was generous with his time and advice to his students and indeed to anyone who needed his help. He loved probability, statistics, and mathematics and loved sharing with others. He stood up for his students when they needed him. We can all be inspired by his loyalty to individuals. As a department, we would do well to remember the many stories of how Lucien and others of our founders unhesitatingly helped out students at crucial times.
Dignity: His independence and integrity, coupled with a certain quiet gentleness, gave him great presence and dignity. Dignity is difficult to preserve in this era of pointing, clicking, and twitching. But perhaps if we keep in mind an image of Lucien in the coffee room we can maintain some in our lives. Perhaps the department can be a little less harried and a little more reflective and good humored.
I would like to relate a couple of stories that illustrate some of these aspects of his character:
Story 1: Lucien and the Stat 21 students. Lucien's door was always open. He was always available to quietly and calmly share his knowledge with anyone who asked, tailoring his exposition to their level of understanding. This generosity extended to students at all levels.
Lucien was in the central hallway on the third floor of Evans running a gauntlet of students legs. They were stretched out in front of a section room where a midterm was about to take place, and they were all worrying about Chebyshevs inequality. One of them said in desperation, "What IS that?" Lucien bent down and said, very gently, "Maybe I can help you." The students were very uncertain; they clearly doubted his competence in the matter. "Were in Stat 21," one of them informed Lucien grandly. Lucien explained the inequality to them, in very simple language. Then he went on his way as the student's jaws dropped. One young man recovered himself enough to yell, "Thank you!" to Luciens disappearing back. Then he turned to his classmates and said, "Wow. That old guy knew what it was right off the top of his head."
Story 2. The admission of Ani Adhikari: As I said, Lucien stood up for those who were powerless and also had a deep antipathy for bureaucracy. This story illustrates both of these characteristics.
Ani Adhikari applied for admission to our Ph.D. program after completing an undergraduate degree from the Indian Statistical Institute. They have an intensive program, much more focused than our undergraduate major, but its only three years long. The Grad Division sent Ani a letter saying, "Sorry, but a three year undergraduate degree isnt good enough." She felt very bad. She had her heart set on going to Berkeley and she knew she had learned more math and stat in three years than many majors do here in four. But she was resigned. Then a cable arrived at the door - an international cable, which read, "Please disregard Graduate Division letter. Department recommends highly." It was signed "Lucien LeCam." She knew the name, of course, and couldnt have been more thrilled had she received a cable from the Beatles or even Einstein. She still has it, and will always keep it.
There are many of us here today, and I'm sure that between us all we have many, many such stories. I hope that we remember them and I hope that by reflecting on his character and the strength he gave to the department, we can strengthen ourselves, strengthen our thoughts and actions, and contribute to those around us in the memory of his many contributions.