University of Minnesota

“It Isn’t Always Fun.” – Frederick Epstein


A Eulogy

AHA Council Meeting

San Francisco, CA

March 1996


We are here to celebrate the light that Fred Epstein gave us as a colleague and the joy that he brought us as a friend.

We highlight his contributions to our field and acknowledge his profound understanding of the nature and preventability of mass diseases.

We grieve the loss of Fred’s warmth, intimacy, and caring, and of his radiant presence among us.

Fred Epstein had the broadest view, the keenest vision, the soundest methods, the more prodigious energy, and the most generous spirit of any among our fine professional family.

His rich career and his major accomplishments in our field and in this professional society have been summarized elsewhere. Tonight, in the company of his wife, Doris, and son, Andy, and many of Fred’s closest colleagues, I want to be more personal.

For example, I never told Fred how grateful I was for his guidance and his direct role in my early career. He appointed me to the Criteria and Methods Subcommittee of the Committee on Epidemiological Studies, years before we were a Council, thereby launching a lifetime of activity as an AHA volunteer. But I think we were close enough that he knew my gratitude.

Those who experienced Fred’s regular phone calls over the years know how warmed and buoyed one felt from them. I relied on Fred’s opinions of the writings I always shared with him, but his leaving brought a strong realization that I have written mainly with Fred in mind as audience and critic. Fred’s mind was the main, true, open, and receptive one to me. I suspect that he was the one who best knew and accepted each of us in a personal and a historical context. He was the one who could most fully appreciate what we were doing. Fred would always understand and always support and always criticize — ever so gently but helpfully. No other friend, colleague, or, for that matter, relative, would have Fred’s special concern for our intellectual predicament or his particular receptivity to our current passion.

What a gift he was. How few minds and spirits are we truly attuned to, with which we really want to share, whose reaction we care so much about, and whose approbation we need to realize the deeper satisfactions from our work?

Fred was that uniquely informed and supportive mind and spirit for me. But I never told him this. I wish I had. But somehow, I have no guilt over the failure. Our mutual admiration was assumed and was so evident that it didn’t require to be expressed in words. I know that some of you had a similar mutual society with Fred.

Doris and Andy and family, though your loss is many magnitudes greater than ours, I hope that it is some satisfaction for you to hear from all tonight our recognition of Fred’s contributions, our admiration and affection for his person, and our gratitude for his friendship during his good life among us.

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