Hommage à Michel Freyssenet. Tommaso Pardi

Michel was my mentor
Tommaso Pardi, CNRS IDHES, Director of Gerpisa

Dear Elsie, dear friends

As you well know Elsie, Michel was my mentor, I owe him a lot. I don't know where to begin to mention all the things he did for me, that he passed on to me, that make me a much better researcher today, and probably a better person, if my path hadn't crossed his. Of all these things, the one for which I will be forever grateful to him is that he believed in me. Not only when he entrusted me with what was perhaps the most precious thing he had created in his career, the Gerpisa, because then I knew I could count on his trust, but much earlier when I was a young researcher and he took me under his wing and made me understand, although I had not yet fully understood it, that my research could be important, that it could contribute to a collective work, that it could move the lines.

I think that I am not the only one to have lived this experience. Discovering through Michel's benevolent and curious eyes the value of our research. Michel was a researcher of "gems", as he liked to call them when he stumbled upon an article, a chapter, a concept of which he immediately perceived the interest. He had that rare ability to transmute the lead of our individual work into gold for the research community.

Michel would resent me for saying that Gerpisa was his creation, because he always conceived and thought of it as a collective work. But we all know that without his energy, his vision, his capacity for synthesis, his ability to weave links across physical and disciplinary boundaries, theoretical and human links, made of thought and friendship, Gerpisa, I am convinced, would not have existed for a long time. For these ties are strong, they persist, and bring us together today around Michel, to mourn his passing and to salute his work.

We also all know that alongside Michel there has always been Elsie. Elsie does not like to put herself forward, to talk about her numerous researches that have contributed a lot to Michel's reflection and to the progress of Gerpisa. She prefers to remain in the background. But we know that she has always been there, even when Michel had doubts, because the Gerpisa adventure has not always been simple and there have been difficult moments. Elsie, on the other hand, never doubted. Thank you Elsie, for everything you have done for Michel, for everything you have done for the Gerpisa.

Michel left too soon, he still had so much work in progress, so many relevant and difficult questions to ask us, so many precious things to pass on to us. But when we read the tributes we received from all over the world after the announcement of his death, we have the impression that Michel did not live one life, but several. Our Brazilian colleagues mourn him as one of their own. Our Mexican colleagues consider him a national hero, and it would not surprise me if one day they erected a statue in his honour. And our Japanese colleagues tell us about Michel in the words they use for their sensei, their masters.

Michel, we will miss you very much, but you will always be with us. Your example will continue to guide us, and your work and concepts will continue to light our way.

Tommaso

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
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