Gentle, droll to perfection, and that incisive mind. Time was so well spent with Alan it was, on reflection, almost shocking. But one was never shocked with Alan, things were so easy going with him. He showed us something of the beau ideal of friendship.
My deepest condolences to Alan's family and friends. It's been over ten years since I last saw Alan, but he's someone I've always considered a good friend, all the way back to high school He was smart, funny, and a good man, and I am so stunned and saddened to learn of his passing.
Alan was such an unfailingly friendly person. We first met in an elevator more than twenty years ago when he mistook me for a fellow student. Later we became colleagues. Never once, I think, did our paths cross without his coming up with something cheerful to say, something that made the day a bit better. I called him “Monsieur le Baron,” because one of his distant ancestors in Haiti had been made a baron. But he was a bit of a prince, too.
It was with great sadness that I heard news of Alan's passing. For more than 6 years we were colleagues at the University of Florida; for some of that time I was his head of department. As a scholar, Alan combined a genuine curiosity about the sources and nature of ideas and social trends with a kind of intellectual contrariness of the best kind: he never let you settle for easy assumptions or glib generalizations, but always challenged you to test those assumptions and anchor those generalizations more firmly in the historical record. His work was thoughtful and provocative - and in helping us to appreciate that much of what we used to think of as defining the 1960s actually happened a decade early, right on the money!
It is a great shame for the professon that we won't get to read more of that feisty scholarship. But his passing is an even greater loss for all his family, friends and the greater University of Florida community. Our thoughts are with you all at this sad time.
I deeply regret not having spent more time with Alan. The occasions we met were almost entirely confined to the periods he spent in Princeton (where I then lived) as a fellow of the James Madison Program or on research related visits thereafter.
Alan was, of course, an usually gifted and imaginative scholar with an important career ahead of him, but what for me was most distinctive about him was his interest in ideas, pure and simple, rather than as things to be pursued basically for a professional purpose. You could talk with him at length about any historical or political subject without constraint or fatigue, and always with great reward. He was the kind of ideal intellectual companion that you were tempted to have internal dialogues with even when he wasn't present - just a wonderful person to listen to and bounce thoughts off. Alan was also immensely affable, though with a zestfully combative spirit as well, which gave both ease and spice to conversational encounters.
I had planned to have Alan lecture at Texas Tech in the coming spring semester. To hear Alan would have been quite a memorable experience for everyone in his audience and for me as well. I was looking forward to it immensely. How sad it won't happen.
My deep condolences to his mother, all his family, and his colleagues at the University of Florida. Your loss is very great and I share in it.
Institute for the Study of
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