Jeff Zeikus


Memories revealed through email

    With Jeff's recent death, we all are more acuetely aware of his remarkable life, and to me, nothing has expressed it more beautifully than an email I received from him in 1999, after I apologized not coming to his birthday party. I reproduce it below for Jeff's family and friends as a way to remember him both in life and in death. Jeff, you will never be forgotten by your family and dear friends.  I only hope that the people of the world can realize what wonders are in their midst, but one does not realize such wonders, and to me, I just decided to take a look at my correpondence before attending Jeff's Memorial Service. I found the following below:

Dear Jeff:
I am sorry that I missed the 1PM celebration of your birthday, Jeff. I want
to wish you a very happy birthday and many more. We never grow older do we?
I just had my 60th on January 2 and have some kind of bewilderment that I
have made it this far!
All the best,

Tue, 02 Feb 1999
Thanks for your kind thoughts, Malcolm.  In my mind, growth and change are
the essence of life, and in the process I have lost a little of this and
little of that.  My sorrows are of those I have loved and lost.  They are
saved in my memories and held close to my heart.  I am thankful for the
loss of things undesired and forgotten.

At first and without effort, we gain more than we loose.  In time, skill is
needed to continue the net gain.  As our bodies age, the mind judges aging
as bad and rebels against change.  The mind can deny us growth and change.
Thus, we can think ourselves to death.

Happiness is the essence of living.  Those, who skilled enough to see aging
as a desirable part of life's adventure, make the most of each day and gain
happiness.  In other words, I think we do grow older, and aging may result
in a growing treasure of happiness.  In my pursuit of happiness, I focus on
living a good life.


Here is a letter that I wrote to Judy for her and Jeff's family giving my impressions of the memorial service held for Jeff:
April 5, 2003

Dear Judy and loving Family,

A daughter who heaped praise on her father for his gentleness and understanding.  A  brother who showed us true love for Jeff, giving many examples of this loving relationship throughout the years. A niece who said she was not versed in public speaking, but whose words moved so many in her praise for her uncle. An honors high school chemistry student who said that her bright clothes and outlook were influenced by philosophy and advice from Jeff to 'do your thing'. A word of appreciation from her former boss of the Culture Collection, words from her mouth indicating a true and unfailing respect and honor for Jeff. Words from a professor who read an email from Jeff giving poignant  advice on life, philosophy, living, and aging after an apology missing his  birthday the day before. Words from Jeff's caretaker who knew the morning Jeff died that in spite of the beautiful spring day, she was depressed for some reason, before learning that Jeff had passed away. Words from the present director of the Culture Collection who said that he learned from Jeff how to run a culture collection. Words from the father-in- law of Jeff's daughter, stating what an honor it was to have known Jeff for a relatively short time, praising Jeff for helping his son. Words from the new curator that Jeff played a competitive game and that he will use the guidelines that Jeff gave, to help him in the future with the Culture Collection.
 And words from Jeff's wife. Unselfish words of praise, of a pact between them, praise for Jeff's honor and ability to be positive in spite of tremendous odds of numerous complications from his physical condition. Praise and testimony that she was indeed blessed to have been his wife. Photos, videos, artifacts of Jeff's life, and yes, the American flag there.... so silently yet ostensibly resting on the simple pinewood coffin that bore Jeff's body. Flowers everywhere, testimony to Jeff's love for flowers. Fellowship with those who were there to witness this remarkable memorial service.
Yes, Ann and I vowed that the next time we get into an argument, we are going to truncate it, respecting our love for each other rather than the opportunity to 'win'. We came from this remarkable gathering humbled and hopeful that Jeff in his death has given us so much to live for. Yet, as we celebrated the life of Jeff Zeikus on this beautiful spring day, we know that Jeff will be in the hearts and minds of his many friends for years to come, and that he shall never leave the thoughts of his immediate family. Jeff wanted happiness and peace, and his example will not soon be forgotten.

With love and admiration and humble respect,


On other matters, Jeff was very specific and to the point. I have long tried to get our Administration to name the Biological Laboratories Building, " Bold Hall" after Harold C. Bold, my major professor and eminent phycologist, professor, and human being. Harold dedicated his life to UT-Austin, yet has been ignored by the Administration after his death. Here is some poignant correspondence between Jeff and me on this issue upon learning from President Faulkner, that he planned to use the BOTANY Ponds for a site, "UT Remembers" dedicated to those killed in the Whitman Tower incident and other alumni who have passed:

Thu, 22 Jul 1999
Today, the Office of the President has announced the dedication of Tower
Garden on Sunday, August 1, 1999, 4:00 p.m.  The words of President Larry
R. Faulkner: "This garden is a grassy, tree-covered parcel of land bordered
by ponds and lies in the heart of the campus just north of the Tower and
Main Building.  For many year this has been a favorite quiet place for our
campus community and for visitors.  I plan to appoint a committee comprised
of people from the campus and the Austin community to work together in the
months ahead to develop a plan for this garden, which will be the site of
UT Remembers in May 2000."

There is no mention of Harold Bold's creation known as the Botany Ponds aka
Botany Turtle Ponds or the Botany Greenhouse or the little Botany Garden
that are already there.  No mention that Guy Thompson has put a lot of time
and energy into maintaining the pond in recent years.  Botanicide on this
campus continues and the word "botany" has been erased from the
administration's collective mind. I guess this is the official announcement
that UT Remembers the Tower massacre and forgets botany, Harold Bold and
botanists in general.  I am saddened by President's lack of respect for
contributions by UT botanists and surprised that the President chose to
dedicate the land to a garden rather than the Tower Parking Garage.

Fri, 23 Jul 1999
Hi Malcolm,
President Faulkner's snub of our Botany Department and the many
contributions of UT botanists indicates he and UT administrators in general
don't care about us.  He and they only care about the money they want to
spend.  The President says that he  wants to involve outsiders in campus
activities, e.g., "people from the campus and the Austin community to work
together . . ."  Why?  Don't let anybody know this, but I think he wants
them to eventually donate large amounts of money, which then will be spent
by the administration.  In  honor of the big contributors, their names will
be attached to campus buildings.

Two years after Dr. Bold died, Richard Starr suggested to that UT
administration the renaming of Biological Laboratories in honor of Prof.
Harold Bold, i.e., H.C. Bold Hall.  He was told that Dr. Bold's
contributions to UT may not be significant enough for such an honor, and
also that candidates for such honors must be dead at least 5 years.
Recently, the rules were changed in order to achieve the Moffett Institute
of Molecular Biology--everyone remembers the late and good Professor
Moffett.  The new rules allow outsiders to buy places of honor on the
campus rather than endure the tedium of a life dedicated to teaching and
research.  Those who had dedicated themselves to teaching and research on
this campus didn't give enough and are not sufficiently dead to be honored
for their contributions.  In the judgement of the President and his
administration, money in great quantities is the only really memorable

Reality is determined by the administration and the ideas of others are
mere illusions.  The creation and dedication of the Tower Gardens, the
planning committee, the bonding of UT campus and Austin community in memory
of the Tower massacre is a scheme to make money.  I wish you well in you
gallant attempt to achieve Bold Hall, but unless you have millions of
dollars, it will become Greenback Hall or Cash Hall or Bigbucks Hall.

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created April 25, 2003 flying from Stockholm to Chicago