I met Shoucheng and Barbara Zhang when our children attended Nixon Elementary School together in 2001 or -2. A few years later my family was inducted into an International Cooking Club. The Club of six couples met for a themed, pot luck dinner roughly every other month. Shoucheng invariably arrived at these dinners directly off of a long flight from a far-flung exotic country where he had to meet with international experts in the fields of Physics or Technology. He was always travel-weary and battling the time zones, but he was willing to meet with the group nonetheless. And Shoucheng invariably wore his his navy cashmere blazer, with one of the three pair of pants he owned. I was grateful for his wardrobe consistency, because that was the softest, plushest, most-huggable navy blue blazer ever. I enjoyed hugging him and that blazer.
Our cooking club seating arrangements were alternating "boy-girl," and we were not to sit next to our own spouses. So periodically I was seated next to Shoucheng. So what does a state-university educated journalism major and MBA discuss with an über-educated child prodigy, Chinese immigrant, and world-renowned Physicist and Stanford professor? Good question. Over time we discovered that we both spoke German. Apparently Shoucheng studied at the University of Berlin and came away speaking flawless high-German with no accent. And I spent one-year abroad in Salzburg, Austria, where I absorbed a twangy German dialect and spoke what I assume was a 4-year-old level. So we quickly exhausted that topic. Not like we could trade German novels or poetry books. The irony of the mismatch was not lost on me, but Shoucheng was always welcoming and gracious and engaged, proving that his manners and values were in the right place. Thank you, Shoucheng. I could intuit that he believed that everyone has a story of value to share with the world.
My favorite memory of Shoucheng was the evening he announced that his scientific theory was showcased on the television sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Upon describing the situation, our intellectual superior of sober, lofty esteem, immediately transformed into a giddy teenage girl! He had recorded the pertinent video clip onto his cell phone and enthusiastically played it for us over and over again, beaming like a proud mama. It was joyful to see him so happy and proud. I would feel comfortable betting that Shoucheng enjoyed his 15 minutes of television fame almost as much all those awards he has earned.
Rest in Peace my friend, my dinner companion. The loss is ours.