First, Tanya and I wish to say that we are delighted and grateful for the privilege of being here to celebrate Dick Levins’ birthday.
My first strong remembrance of Dick is when several of us grad students from Dobzhansky’s lab at Columbia, including Dick and myself, attended a Cold Spring Harbor Symposium in the mid 50’s, a time when the administration of such symposia were still greatly enamored of organisms, populations and communities, and less so of molecules. One of the reports, by Pavan and da Cunha as I recall, dealt with chromosome puffs and gene activity in Rhynchosciara, which, while not appearing to excite most of the senior investigators in the audience, moved Dick greatly, and then me as well (after we discussed the work briefly). What struck me was Dicks almost instantaneous appreciation of the significance of the work, and the importance of understanding how development evolved, at a time when the phrase evo-devo was not invented, and when courses in Development were still called “”Embryology”.
Although I didn’t see Dick very much after I went off to North Carolina to work under Lewontin, I of course excitedly followed his work for the next few years. When I met Tanya and was offered a couple of jobs in Puerto Rico, we checked with Dick again, since we met Rosario and knew of his special connection there. His advice greatly helped the two of us settle in when we both arrived in Rio Piedras, with general suggestions as to how a gringo like me and a Yugoslav like Tanya could best adapt, as well as with his advice on Drosophila collection in the field and Drosophila experiments in the lab. As one might expect, our colleagues in the Department of Biology remembered Dick quite fondly, and missed him terribly.
We like to think that three greatly appreciated and mutual colleagues of ours and Dicks, unfortunately not with us anymore, are somewhere celebrating with us: Plant Ecologist Mike Byer (who passed on just this January), Plant Ecologist and mangrove specialist par excellence Gustavo Candelas, academic father of perhaps most of our outstanding Puerto Rican ecologists for many years, and Parasitologist Julio Garcia Diaz, former Dean of Natural Sciences at UPR-RP.
Dick we feel honored to know you, and once again are very happy to be here to wish you a happy birthday and to see you again after so many years.
Tanya and David