GOODBYE TO AN EXCEPTIONAL PERSON
A scientific community is like a human being: it is born, grows and develops by welcoming other people. It is the case of CFATG and the international research community on autophagy. Unfortunately, like for human beings, death has taken a person who was much treasured by this community. Beth Levine was very much loved and respected, a very special person. A great lady, “une Grande Dame”, always elegant, like one of these New York ladies who can be found in the books by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote. Yet, clothes are not enough to make a great person, and Beth was one mainly because of her dignity, her intellectual rigour, her interest for the others, and her courage during her disease. She did not make a show of her courage, out of discretion, but it was emanating from her person. She was a solar person due to her brilliant intelligence, sharp as a diamond.
Everybody assisting to a seminar given by Beth was touched her intensity. We were all subjugated! Like both of us, during our first meeting with her in 2000 for organizing the 2nd International Symposium on Autophagy at Aix-les-Bains. One was an organizer and the other a PhD student in charge of the slides (a bygone time… !). Beth had always kept a special memory of this symposium: her first invitation as a speaker in front of the autophagy community. We think that it is not necessary to list here her contribution to the autophagy field after her discovery of beclin 1. We all know her outstanding scientific career filled with discoveries that go beyond our field and that have been influencing different research fields, from microbiology, immunology, and biology of ageing, to cancer development and the control of cell survival and death.
Over time, a deep friendship has developed between Beth and Sophie, and Beth and Patrice, and also among the three of us. It has always been a pleasure to talk with her, in English, sometimes peppered by some words in French, a language that she could understand well because she followed French classes at university and worked as a physician in France during her medical cursus. Short or long conversations, a few words, some glances, we could understand each other.
Her daily life was to understand and accompany the members of her laboratory, to protect them and to push them to give their best with kindness. Hearing her steps, so recognizable, in the corridors was reassuring and stimulating at the same time.
Yes… it is a great person who left us and we are honoured by her friendship. She has opened many research paths that will allow many future generations of researchers to continue her work that sadly, has been interrupted too early.
We met her for the first time at Aix-les-Bains, on the shore of Lake Bourget that inspired Lamartine. She loved poetry. These lines from a poem by Lamartine accompany her now:
“And so! Pushed constantly toward new coasts,
Swept away into eternal night, with no return,
Can we never on the ocean of ages
Throw down an anchor for a single day ? »
Sophie Pattingre and Patrice CodognoTweet