Friday, April 27, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane (Part 3B [Concluding]): A Mentor-Colleague-Friend During my UF Days and Thereafter: Prof. Robert G. Dean

This is the concluding part of the recollection of my interaction with Prof. Dean, which I penned at the occasion of his retirement from UF in 2003. It continues from where I let off here, chronicling events that occurred after I returned to Malaysia in 1995. Read on.

Since my return to Malaysia upon my graduation with a Ph.D. degree in early 1995, I’ve maintained an e-mail link with Prof. Dean. One of these culminated into the very first visit of Prof. Dean to Malaysia in Oct 1999 during which he delivered a keynote address in the Conference on Coastal Environment, despite his tight schedule. In fact, his visit was concluded in very short notice, much to my surprise and noting then that I was just trying my luck.

During his 3-day stay in Malaysia, I had a lot of one-on-one opportunity with him, especially on the field trip in my car to look at some of the beaches and shore development taking place along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. We talked about the old times at UF, the shape of coastal engineering to come in the future, and UC Berkeley from where Prof. Dean obtained his first degree, in 1954, the very year I was born. I just realize this is another link between us, in addition to the UF and Association of Coastal Engineers (ACE) connections, me having graduated from UC Berkeley with a Master’s degree in 1987, more than three decades later.

One of the spots we visited was a coastal resort development fronting the open sea
(Straits of Malacca) with two breakwater arms extending into the sea and enclose a yacht marina. I remembered showing to him a desk-top model of the proposed future development that displayed proposed houses built on the two breakwater arms and was making comments to the effect that it was sheer folly trying to build on breakwaters that bear the full brunt of the wave attack. To my totally unprepared mind, Prof. Dean, with his vast experience in coastal development, especially his 3-year stint as the Director of Shores with the State Government of Florida, started to expound on a different philosophy to coastal development, one that provides added values to coastal protection and blends it into coastal tourism. In this paradigm change from one of separating the coastal protection function from economic activity to one on integrated development, all uses of the coast are merged to facilitate a systematic development of the coastal resources.

I met Prof. Dean again in Cardiff last year [2002] at the occasion of the 28th International Coastal Engineering Conference during which he gave a touching thank-you speech to Prof. Billy Edge. More exchanges of coastal engineering matter took place during the conference.

Till this day I still have a guilty feeling when his name crops up, be it during a conversation or more likely during a technical discussion. It is then I remember that I’ve yet to send him the profile data that I promised when Prof. Dean posted an e-mail in the Coastal_List requesting for profile data for his continuing work in the analyses of beach profiles, to which I readily e-mailed back my commitment but have yet to send in the Malaysian profile data to him [To my embarrassment, this remains outstanding]..

Not too long ago, I e-mailed him again to act as a reference for my US job application and in his usual helpful manner, he replied back, “I enjoyed hearing from you. I would be pleased to provide a reference for you.” Concise and warm as usual.

As Bob Buford said in his book, Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance, “One characteristic of a person who is nearing the end of the first half is that unquenchable desire to move from success to significance.” Here I note that Prof. Dean has already marched into three-quarter time, perhaps taking comfort in knowing that he has achieved both success and significance. To my mortal mind, I really cannot visualize what further legacy Prof. Dean will leave us with. But knowing Prof. Dean, I won’t be surprised that he already has something cooking.

I would always remember Prof. Dean, a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. And I would like to take this opportunity to wish him a happy retirement from UF, and a happy beginning to whatever he chooses to do in his post-retirement life.

(Penned in Malaysia, April 2003 to commemorate the retirement of Prof. Dean from University of Florida.)

Post Script: I met Prof. Dean once more, soon after I moved to US at a conference organized by the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association held in Orlando in 2004. He remained his smiling self, always eager to impart his vast store of coastal engineering knowledge and to interact with the next generation of coastal engineers, yours truly included.

No comments: