Yesterday, I saw a facebook status by one of my professors with just one word “欸……….” and there were nearly 20 criley reactions. I wondered why and asked one of his student. What he sent me was a screenshot of an official news of one of the most respected chemical geologist in Taiwan’s death. The very same chemical geologist, Professor Bor-ming Jahn, was my professor for Scientific English last semester.
His passing away was so sudden, and it triggered some deep part of me. I haven’t known him for very long, nor was I extremely close to him, but throughout the few encounters that we had, I kind of saw him as a grandpa I never had.
During his lessons, he gave homework nearly every week. Sometimes I would submit one or two days late due to field trips over the weekend, or because of pure procrastination. I would write emails to explain my situation and he would very generously accept my various reasons. He would ask me how I was when I accidentally slept in one of his lessons, and he would ask how I was when I fell ill.
On the very last day of class, which also happen to be the day of final paper, he gathered everybody for a class photo before proceeding with the exam. He said he wanted as memory. Then papers were distributed and we began our exam. This paper was particularly harder than all the previous papers. When someone stood up to hand in their script, Professor Jahn stopped us from leaving first, got his assistant to grab some extra readings that he wants us to read after the semester ended. Apparently, along with the readings, he had also already printed the group photo that we took at the beginning of the lesson, had them laminated and in A4 size. Every one of us got to bring one of it home! I also remembered that he told us “Bon courage!”, which meant 加油 in French. It was because of him that the idea of picking up French grew on me.
I still remember showing it off to my friends, how I got a picture with the cutest elderly professor in my entire faculty, and I stood beside him (or something). I think what I lacked was getting his autograph, and now I’ll never get the chance again.
After that semester ended, I no longer had any lessons with him. However, there were times when we would happen to meet at the bicycle parking lot behind our faculty building. I would say hi to Prof excitedly, and after friendly exchange of concerns, not know what other things to say, although I wished I had more topics to converse with.
The last time I saw him was also merely two weeks ago. He asked how I was, and I told him that I was going to apply for overseas exchange, hopefully to Canada. He hyped, “Good! Go out and see the world! All the best for your application!” Although they were simple words that a professor would respond to a student he hardly know, but they touched my heart, because he was just like the grandpa I never had. I was in such a good mood that day.
And just few days ago, I was looking at the announcement screen in my faculty building. Glories of professors in the faculty would usually appear there. Apart from the usual, I saw one that congratulated Professor Jahn on his newly appointed title of Honorary Fellow of Geological Society of America in 2016. Just a few days ago. And then I receive the news that he passed away yesterday, while I was having French class.
Perhaps it’s the suddenness, perhaps it’s the fact that he was just well and healthy the last time I saw him (which wasn’t very long ago, mind you), and the next moment he’s gone. But what touched me the most was his fiery passion and contribution to the geological society. Although I do not know very well of his works because of my own lack of reading, but it also dawned upon me that he has been involving research till the very end of his life. During his last years, he spent them not just with family members, but also with us, his faculty. It’s something that, really overwhelms me. Words are unable to describe how intense this feeling and sense of respect is.
I would say, he is currently the most respected professor that I have met thus far. It was an extreme honour for me to have been taught by him, although it was probably his last module in NTU.
Merci professeur, bon courage in your newest journey. Thank you for all that you have inspired me, and I will miss you, so so much. Rest in peace, the grandpa I never had.