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The power of friendship and its loss

Dr. Eugene Paslov
For the Nevada Appeal

Friendship is a complicated manner. Some friends are made and kept by conditions of work or interest and sometimes even by proximity. Other friendships are established by intellectual and spiritual connections that are more difficult to define. Both kinds of friends are essential to the quality of our lives.

We lost a friend on Dec. 1, 2008.

My wife Susan and I attended the memorial service of Dr. Philip Altick on Dec. 19 at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Joe Crowley Center. It was standing room only. Phil was a professor emeritus of physics at UNR, a world-renowned scientist, a passionate outdoorsman, and a devoted father, grandfather and husband. He was also an astute observer and commentator of contemporary political events. He cried for joy while making a toast to celebrate the presidential win of Barack Obama, but he also was known for his humanity toward those who lost. He was a remarkable man and his loss to our Northern Nevada community will hurt.

I had known Shirley Altick, Phil’s wife, for years when she was an administrator in the Washoe County schools, but only had met her husband, Phil, a few years before. The Alticks and the Paslovs sat next to each other at the performances of the Reno Philharmonic concerts. Phil also loved music and brought the same passion and intellectual curiosity to the music performances as he did to his teaching of science and the living of his life.

A special friendship formed between the Alticks and Paslovs that, although not long in the usual sense of friendships, was powerful in its intellectual and spiritual qualities. As I listened to Phil’s children, grandchildren, professional colleagues and friends tell the wonderful stories of an exceptional human being, I felt great pride, not only in being a small part of Phil Altick’s life, but in our community and its institutions ” its university and public schools which made much of Phil’s accomplishment and contributions possible.

There are those today in our community ” anti-intellectual ideologues and cynical curmudgeons who demean and devalue these institutions, schools, universities, the arts, those who are anti-government and anti-public schools whose vision of our community is stark, mean-spirited and inhumane. They work through their anti-tax rhetoric to starve these institutions of the resources necessary for them and us to flourish. They do this in the name of “conservatism.” They propose to unravel our community and our state with ideological beliefs that are based on nothing that approximates science, scholarship or practical political thought.

Dr. Philip Altick’s life was a testimony to all that emerges from strong community institutions ” a loving family, the power of the “academy” and colleagues who continue to explore intellectual mysteries, and an immense army of friends who will try to make our community more humane and livable by emulating Phil Altick.

– Dr. Eugene T. Paslov is a former state superintendent of schools in Nevada and Michigan. He is a school board member for Silver State Charter High School in Carson City and the Davidson Academy Charter High School in Reno.