Sharing time with Jon was a unique gift

I just cannot come to terms with the fact that a person with so much energy and vitality can leave us so unexpectedly. It seems like a nightmare I cannot get over.

Last night I had a dream: I had an appointment with Jon and I was late. It was in a very big house full of rooms.  I  opened all doors one by one and after a while, I found a room with a table full of people discussing mathematics very passionately and Jon was leading the discussion. I apologised for being late but at the same time I felt happy and somehow relieved that my delay wasn’t important. I sat at the table and recognized some people, and started discussing mathematics with them.

This dream shows me that discussing mathematics and other things with Jon (any topic could be potentially interesting for Jon)  gave me the precious opportunity of exchanging ideas freely without feeling self-conscious. Moreover, he was always ready and available to help in cases of important decisions, emergencies or conflicts between people, which he would invariably resolve in an extremely elegant and original way. After providing his support, he would say to me: I want everybody to be happy!  And he always achieved it. Jon was one of the few colleagues that made me feel I could always count on him, not only mathematically but also from the human point of view.

In fact, Jon had the unique gift of having a great scientific mind and being extremely skillful in managerial matters. This combination that he had was also a gift for the Australian mathematics, I believe, because since the time he came to Australia we witnessed a substantial increase in the frequency of meetings and related  activities in mathematical optimization. He gave new life, air and energy to the Australian mathematics landscape as soon as he stepped in in 2008.

Jon was my friend, my teacher, my collaborator, and my guidance. He always showed the courage to stand up for his convictions, no matter what the risks were. He supported the scientific community and promoted all aspects of good quality science.

I will do my best to preserve Jon’s great legacy and try to follow his path. I  will always keep with me the memories of the time we spent together, his presence, his ideas, and his advises.

[12/08/16, Regina Burachik, University of South Australia]

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