I spent a lot of time this August thinking about which of many priorities I wanted to emphasize in this brief message to all of my students. And then, today (Sunday), I attended the memorial service for Lach Hristov, a 2015 chemistry graduate from Duncan College. Very sadly, we lost Lach 10 days ago in a tragic accident. He was about to start his graduate school career at Harvard University, having just completed a year as a Fulbright Fellow. The memorial was beautiful and deeply moving, a tribute to a young man called by his friend “a beautiful soul.” A family friend from his home reminded us that his full ﬁ rst name Lachezar means “radiant light.” His parents could not have known when they named him how appropriate his name was, as he was deﬁ nitely a brilliant light to the Rice community and the Duncan family and the chemistry faculty.
Here was a young man who fully embraced and lived the Rice experience. He found his passions in organic chemistry and international travel, and he pursued both with depth and rigor and dedication. It was said of Lach that he viewed each experience not as a memory in the past but as a lesson on which to build. As I listened to the wonderful stories of his life at Rice, I wished that each of you could have heard these stories or to have known his radiant light, so that you might be inspired to follow his example.
So I come to my advice and my wish for each of you for the next year and for all of your years at Rice. Give yourself the time to ﬁ nd your passion and then give yourself the time to deeply engage with that passion. To ﬁ nd your passions and to understand yourself, you need to give yourself time for quiet, undistracted personal reﬂ ection. To deeply engage that passion, you need time in close and meaningful conversation with your classmates and with your mentors on the faculty and staﬀ . Do not rush these moments, because these are the moments you will cherish from your life at Rice. These are the moments when you will discover the person you want to be and then when you will become that person. Savor them, and savor the excitement of deeply understanding what you had not understood.
The following words were spoken by one of Lach’s eulogists and were handed out at his memorial, and it is clear that they had meaning to him as they should have meaning for us. So I want to leave you with them, quoting from “Thief of Time”: “Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore … the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.”
John Hutchinson is the Dean of Undergraduates of Rice University