“To our Mentor, from grateful mentees” : Rob as the first Mentor Honoris Causa
The loss of Rob broke my heart and left me speechless. Devastated by such tragedy, I cannot even imagine the sorrow of Alain and those that loved him. For me Rob was much more than a colleague, he was a friend and an elder brother.
In my eyes, Rob embodied Mentor, the mythical greek character that was the first mentor. As Rob knew, Athena the goddess of wisdom and science had incarnated in Mentor to help Telemachus who was exploring the world to find Odysseus.
Rob had such a dedication to his students that he set an example for every professor that had the chance of being inspired by him. Always with a benevolent smile, he mentored learners of all ages exploring knowledge. They will all remember him : disfavored teens at the Harvard Education portal, undergrads in his biology classes and during the biopolis summer schools in Paris, online learners in HarvardX MOOC or in his latest project LabXchange, as well as PhD students and colleagues in his department, the Bok center or the CRI.
I believe all those who knew Rob will miss him but I feel that even the learners that did not have that chance will miss his energy and vision of a future where they could learn to care for oneself, others and the planet to face the challenges of our times and reach UN sustainable development goals.
I wonder how we could be as creative as Rob and contribute to his legacy. Titles of Doctor Honoris Causa have been created to honor great contributions to academic life. I feel that we should create a new title to foster the legacy of Rob, Mentor Honoris Causa, for mentors like him that are contributing to empower all learners that have the chance to benefit from their wisdom.
The world may well have lost a reincarnation of Mentor but I hope that with all those that miss Rob we will be able to contribute to his legacy.
PS Who could deliver Mentor Honoris Causa title should be discussed and criteria defined but mentees willing to honour their mentors should be involved. Places in which mentors contributed could decide to do so while they are alive or create a “pantheon” to honour their memory and MOOCs to document their achievements. We could synchronize real world ceremonies around the international day of education (Jan 24), during the learning planet festival, to maximize international visibility of mentors whose impact scaled. Next January, we could start celebrating such mentors with Rob, who empowered millions of learners through online education and was UNESCO chair for his amazing work.