by McGovern Institute | December 24, 2013
Charles M. Vest’s death came much too early. I miss this man terribly, his kindness, his intelligence, his fairness and most of all his simple humanity. Chuck was President of MIT when we started our discussion about the possibility of the McGovern Institute to be located at MIT. He was enthusiastic, if not ecstatic, but exercised reserve and a deep felt appreciation for what this would mean for neuroscience at MIT.
Our lengthy discussions and negotiations, some not so easy, were always fair with a win-win in mind, and his humorous use of narratives was a tactic to try and sway you without you noticing. I remember the time we met so I could listen to his rationale about postponing the start of building the MIBR. Of course we were opposed to that, and so I was invited by Chuck to a private lunch with the model of the building prominently displayed in view of our table. As in chess, where you try to corner the queen, Chuck suggested that we trade places, thereby putting the model in a less favorable light, all in the hope he could meet his objective. Oh Chuck! We started and finished pretty much on schedule. So many memories, bear hugs and laughter. I remember an MIT dinner where attendees were leaving, but you and I kept talking, the room cleared out, tables were folded up, the crew swept the floor around us sitting on our chairs, ignoring all. The topic of discussion still centered around the building. And then there always will be the story of French fries at Marché in Menlo Park! Chuck was passing the baton and visited many people across the country to say thank you. I had the pleasure to have dinner with him. Chuck was a runner and in great shape because he was mindful of what he ate; however, both of us ordered that occasional steak and unbeknown to us it was accompanied by two enormous pointed parchment bags in a gracious holder filled with (alas, delicious) French fries! We first looked at them in disdain, but one after the other they disappeared until they were gone. We laughed and tried to excuse away the consumption of all those French fries, and with a huge smile on your face “French fries” became your greeting to the bewilderment of those around us. You also shared private dreams post presidency about being interested in an ambassadorship, but that that would be not be feasible for different reasons. I wish we could have many more of our conversations, but instead I wish you goodbye with one last bear hug!
Be well in the place souls go to rest, my friend, and know that you were respected for all the right reasons, but loved by many and by me because you were very simply, Chuck!