Random Thoughts

Frank's death

... my friend, you will be deeply missed.

by Ed Boyd

Frank Garfunkel was the senior advisor on my dissertation some thirty years ago. In these years we have become dear friends. Sometimes devastating news can numb the senses, or sometimes move to action. When told of Frank’s sudden death at 73, I found myself working on the computer keyboard. Here is the message I read for those assembled at Boston University, Marsh Chapel, Spring 1999.

November 18, 1998
I just learned of Frank’s death this morning. I’m still trying to absorb that news.

My mind skipped back to a scene from over thirty years ago. Frank had encouraged me to accept a doctoral fellowship at BU under his guidance. I was shopping around trying to figure out what courses to take. I went to the second session of the doctoral research course that Frank was teaching. Frank began the class by asking if there were any questions from the first session and from suggested readings. As a long silence grew, Frank became visibly agitated. Turning on his heel Frank headed for the door saying, testily, “I will be back next week when I hope that the class might have come up with a question or two.” As he got to the door Frank threw over his shoulder, “As a matter of fact, I will be in Mississippi next week and won’t be back for two weeks.” Frank stormed out.

There were eight or nine of us. The faces and names have faded. I do remember, though, Harold Woodward was there. He had been studying with Frank for a year or two. I talked with Harold about what we should do. We decided that since Harold knew Frank better than I did, he would see if he could talk Frank into coming back to class. My job, the easier of the two, (as you might imagine) was to get the rest of us talking among ourselves to create a few questions. I took up a piece of chalk and wrote a list of questions on the board as the group dictated them. As we were finishing the list, Harold arrived with Frank. I showed Frank the list of questions the group had fashioned. Frank read through the questions, silently. After a while he began to talk.

I remember even now how captivated I became as Frank wove a verbal tapestry from the random collection of sentences scribbled on the chalkboard. The details are long lost. But that recollection, I feel, rivets the essential Frank; the juxtaposition of chafe with sensitive brilliance. Many of us have come to realize that getting beyond an early kick in the shin has led to a longstanding respect and love.

Frank, my mentor, my friend, you will be deeply missed.

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