by: Alex Kotchoubey
Andy and his family hold a very special place in my wife’s family. Andy was a classmate of my father-in-law at the Naval Academy and a factor in my parents-in-law decision to move to Geneva. In that way, I owe Andy a debt of gratitude for making it possible through a series of serendipitous events to meet and marry my wife, Anna. So many years later, here we are living in Geneva, too and I would like to think that in some way it was thanks to a friendship that started between Andy and my father-in-law, Bert in the late 1950s that I have the privilege to write this brief tribute.
Several years ago my then eight year old son, Constantin, when to visit Andy with his grandfather Bert and he was regaled by Andy about stories of ghosts and the wonders of space exploration. I am not sure what one subject had to do with the other but when Constantin was asked if he wanted to explore space, he answered Andy that he would rather stay on earth as he was scared of wormholes and Black holes.
In his book, Outliers, the author Malcolm Gladwell speaks of the importance of the 10,000 hour commitment that so many successful people endure to achieve their greatness. Regardless of the validity of this argument, I would like to think that this time commitment might also apply to the concept of six degrees of separation, social networking or just plain coincidence. Let me explain. I believe that 10,000 hours is the time commitment necessary to arrive at a stage in one’s social development where you can make the necessary connections between people you have met along the way to weave together the fabric of one’s social network.
When my father-in-law introduced me to Andy and to the Burlamaqui Society, I was happily surprised to discover that a number of the now famous Friends of Andy (or FoAs) I had met already in my years working in Moscow, London and New York were also members of the Society. Coincidence or 10,000 hours?
Andy’s kindness, empathy and curiosity were the gifts that he gave to me and perhaps to each of us who had the privilege to know him. His legacy was that he was the accidental godfather of six degrees of separation, or the original social network.
Andy, wherever you are, thank you and I know you are now working hard to keep us safe from wormholes and Black holes and tonight my son might be a little more willing to consider the idea of space exploration, knowing you are somewhere working behind the scenes to keep us safe and well connected.