I first learned of Dr. Wiesel’s passing on the front page of Hacker News, of all places—it’s a technology news aggregator where readers up-vote stories of interest, and it’s run by a venture firm called Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley start-up incubator of sorts. For a story to reach the front page of Hacker News is kind of a big deal in those circles. Perhaps the way in which this news found me has significance of its own, which is that Dr. Wiesel’s influence stretches farther and wider than I could have imagined. And so my sadness of receiving this news was somewhat mixed with befuddlement.
What I remember most about meeting Dr. Wiesel for the first time is his incredible Presence. I had little idea at the time who he was—he didn’t hold the same “celebrity status” in my mind as I later learned he almost universally did—and yet there was this Presence that filled the room. … It was real, not imagined. And it was not so much the presence of Greatness (as Presences often go) but the presence of Kindness that filled the space. After all these years, this is still the first thing I think of when I remember Dr. Wiesel and the time I had the incredible fortune to spend learning in his company. Thank you, Carolyn [Professor Johnston], for inviting me to participate in one of the most intense and memorable learning experiences of my life.
—Vais Salikhov ’01