Tributes to Fotis' life by the community
"It was with deep sadness that I learned of the death of Fotis. We shared great times and friendship during the many years that we over-lapped in EMBL-EMBO. Indeed I owe my move to EMBO to meetings with Fotis in Brussels; he was newly returned to Europe and I was on the Irish periphery and we readily “hit it off’ at some of those interminable EU selection meetings.
When I arrived in Heidelberg (1994) Fotis had started the process of reorienting the EMBL ship to match his vision. He came with deep experience and he adapted that to many aspects of the Lab. I had direct dealings with him as we worked on his plans for the PhD program. It became a model for the selection and training of young researchers. The importance that Fotis put on that aspect of the research life of the organisation has had a lasting effect. Very cleverly, he used it as a tool to bring the outstations and the Hub at Heidelberg together at a time when the balance had to be found between separate silos and a well integrated multidisciplinary organisation. It was typical of Fotis to put effort into that part of the institute as it emphasised the importance of the young researchers. Greek dancing led by Fotis at the end of the PhD award ceremony became a highlight of each year. I see him now in my mind’s eye and I smile.
We also pushed forward on increasing the awareness of translating excellent research such that commercial benefit could be gained. Fotis was very well versed in the pathways to Biotechnology companies from his American experience. He loved to do a deal and some had complex structures. Once the process of technology transfer was started ,it grew momentum and was professionalise by the establishment of EMBLEM and related structures. He understood that the member states had an expectation of a return on investment (in addition to training and knowledge) from the scientists in their own countries and it was a timely and wise move to have paid attention to that aspect in Heidelberg also.
To see Fotis in international settings was to understand exactly how skilled he was in dealing with people. At the EMBL Council meetings, it was obvious that most delegates were in awe of his wisdom and impressed by his world experience. He got them to agree to difficult proposals and to maintain a strong commitment to the concept of the EMBL and to providing it with (almost) enough funds to deliver. In that crucial aspect of his job he delivered exceptionally well.
The EMBL skills transferred readily to other European entities and Europe benefitted greatly from his commitment to many EU committees culminating in the crucial role as Chair of the ERC council.
An evening and a few glasses of wine could be spent in reminiscing and having the warm glow of remembrance of a great man……..but for one of the dispersed community, this will not happen for me, alas. So I have to end inadequately; He was a friend, a supporter of all that is good in EMBL/O, a mentor, a co-conspirator when needed, a smiler, a person who shared his pride and admiration of Sarah overtly and in a way that ,generously, deflected attention from himself, a top class researcher, a committed European, a Greek who did not lose his identity or love of his country (or Crete). In a word, he left his mark on many people and organisations and we all have benefited from him. It is a pity that he has slipped away."
Frank Gannon, 1 December 2017
"I was deeply saddened by the news of Fotis' passing. My heart felt condolences go out to his wife Sarah and family. Personally, I will always remember Fotis as a warm, very wise and immensely intelligent mentor. His valuable advice and support were eminent throughout my PhD studies and beyond and helped me to become the scientist I am today. I cannot thank him enough for this."
Jennifer Volz, 28 November 2017
"I would like to express my warmest condolences for the loss of our General Director. As a member of my EMBL PhD thesis committee, Fotis was a huge teacher for me with his cheerful and to-the-point comments; always helpful. He was a warm person with everybody; an inspiring mind for everybody. The biology world will miss him!"
Greta Braliou, 27 November 2017
"I had the honour and pleasure to meet Prof. Kafatos during my PhD training in Heidelberg in Autumn 2001. As has already been mentioned by others, what struck me straight away and what I'll always remember were his genuine warmth and omnipresent smile. We never worked together, but it's clear that his life's work still has a considerable impact on mine. My warmest wishes to his family."
Nikos Darzentas, 27 November 2017
"I had the honor and privilege to work with Fotis Kafatos while chairing the EMBL Council and the Identification Committee for the ERC Scientific Council. I learned to know Fotis as a scientist with a commitment to excellence and inclusiveness. I particularly respect his leadership qualities which he combined with exceptional diplomatic skills.
A beautiful example of these skills was his appreciation of the Delegations' divergent views on EMBL indicative scheme. Fotis had produced three scenarios for Council to decide on. Unfortunately, even the worst case scenario was not acceptable to the Council, so Fotis had to work overnight to produce a "horror scenario" indicative scheme. He answered every piece of criticism in his very polite, yet determined way and the Council accepted it! Only afterwards it was realized that the horror scenario provided EMBL with substantially better financing that the rejected worst case budget.
During Fotis' time EMBL saw many very successful developments in the rapidly expanding field of molecular biology. In his farewell party so many words of gratitude were said, but I am convinced that what cheered him the most was the performance of the PhD students. During the performance one of the students immitated Fotis and they all joined for a re-worded song where E-M-B-L replaced a more traditional Y-M-C-A. In the end the entire audience joined the singing.
All the scientific and science policy experience Fotis had accumulated was much needed when he agreed to chair the first ERC Scientific Council during the establishment of ERC. With his diplomatic and visionary skills he was able to create an organization which today is considered the biggest success story in European science. I know how many divergent opinions internally and externally there were about the new organization, yet he managed to build them into a true success story.
With these fond memories and deepest respect I send my condolences to Sarah and to Fotis' family and friends."
Eero Vuorio, 24 November 2017
"Fotis was a great scientist, a good friend and a very respectable director of one of the most glorious international research institutes. The EMBL has had a unique privilege to have so many excellent directors. The EMBL directors have had the special ability to discuss and negotiate with the owners, i.e. Member States. It was always a great pleasure to work with Fotis. I had not experienced such a good relationship before and I have not experienced it afterwards. Please convey my condolences to Fotis’ wife and other members of the family."
Sakari Karjalainen, 24 November 2017
"Fotis was one of those persons that brought light to this world, and it is very sad to think that with his death this light has extinguished. However, just as a flame kindles another flame without losing its vigor, may his kindness and love for Science re-kindle these feelings in our hearts and we keep his legacy alive. May we follow in his footsteps. May he rest in peace."
Carolina Barillas, 24 November 2017
"I have been honored and privileged to associate and work with Fotis for so many years. He has been an exceptional scientist, as well as a leader of EMBL's successful development and a crucial figure for the establishment and promotion of the ERC. As an Italian delegate at the EMBL Council I could truly appreciate his managerial skills and leadership qualities. Above all I will always remember him as a specially close friend. My deepest feelings and condolences now go to his family and friends."
Glauco Tocchini, 22 November 2017
"It's in fact, a sad news. Please convey all my deep compassion to Fotis' family."
Genevieve Reinke, 22 November 2017
"I was undergraduate student when Fotis Kafatos was Professor of Biology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece; thus, I have been taught Biology by Fotis Kafatos. Memories of the early years at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens: a) I do remember Fotis Kafatos rapidly walking through the corridors of the Biology Department, concomitantly touching various scientific equipments lying in the corridors, in order to feel their vibrations. b) During the summer term exams in 1974 Fotis Kafatos circulated an innovative questionnaire to be answered anonymously by the students, evaluating the lectures, the practical and the book “Introduction to Biology”; this was a pioneer's approach of the upcoming evaluation processes in education, during the 21st century. The scientific community of Biologists in Greece has lost a caring teacher, colleague, friend and Professor."
Sophia Rhizopoulou, 22 November 2017
"Fotis tenure as DG at EMBL was invaluable. He was dedicated, relentless and successful in steering EMBL in quite not so calm waters, during a time when EMBL member states questioned the role of EMBL. He traveled Europe, marketed EMBL and ensured continued support. At EMBL, Fotis always made time, something I valued greatly. For me personally, he played a very important role and has made an ever lasting impression on me."
Tommy Nilsson, 22 November 2017
"My deep condolences to Fotis' family and friends. So sad."
Markus Grabenbauer, 21 November 2017
"The thing I most admired Fotis for was his interest in the students. He was generous with his time and hospitality. His enthusiasm for the EMBL Science and Society Program enabled it to start holding events that stimulated discussions on a broad range of topics and attracted a wide audience.
His excellent research on malaria was a valuable contribution to that important field. His many friends and colleagues will remember him with great respect."
Michelle Meredyth-Stewart, 21 November 2017
"On behalf of the Scientists and Personnel of BSRC Fleming, I would like to express our sadness for the loss of Fotis Kafatos, an innovative mind that has influenced and shaped the development of Molecular Biology in Europe and in Greece. We extend our condolences to his family and the many students and colleagues he inspired through the years."
George Kollias, 21 November 2017
"I have been privileged to enjoy and benefit from Fotis in many ways: as an outstanding scientist in my field of Developmental Biology, as one of the founding fathers of the ERC and of course during my time as delegate and chairman of the EMBL Council. I highly appreciated his intellect and his diplomatic skills. But mostly I will miss him as a friend. Please convey my deepest sympathy and condolences to his family."
Peter Gruss, 21 November 2017
"Thank you for sharing this very sad news. Our sincere condolences on behalf of the Swedish delegation to EMBL community and to his family."
Maria Thuveson, 20 November 2017
"This is a sad year for EMBL. We have already lost Konrad Müller and Riccardo Cortese and now Fotis Kafatos. Fotis was of course a towering figure who became DG when problems with member states were causing headaches. But soon they disappeared under Fotis’ diplomatic leadership style. He was indeed a diplomat who saw to it that all member states were happily included in the EMBL family. Our relations to Brussels also dramatically improved. Marino Zerial, Tony Hyman and myself were treated most graciously after we had decided to move to Dresden to start a new institute, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. We were allowed to stay and work at EMBL until our building was finished! For a while we advertised our venture as an eastern EMBL but this was not received graciously by our new administration in Munich and we had to stop and just continue to build up our institute according to the EMBL model without advertising it. My deepest sympathy goes to Sarah and her family. Carola and I are saddened by the loss."
Kai Simons, 20 November 2017
"I was sad to hear the news that Fotis passed away.He was a friend and a close partner in the events leading to the creation of the ERC. I will always remember him for his leadership and diplomatic skills to deal with stressful situations at the EMBL, ERC, and the Commission. Fotis was a visionary, and the scientific community is indebted to him. Please convey my condolences to the family."
Julio Cellis, 20 November 2017
"Fotis C. Kafatos has been an important scientist and influential advocate of open collaboration beyond borders and of research infrastructures for excellent science. His visionary leadership strengthened the EMBL and the ERC. The ESFRI Forum participates with the whole scientific community to the condolence for the loss."
Giorgio Rossi, 20 November 2017
"We Finnish delegates want to express our deepest condolences to Fotis's family."
Johanna Myllyharju, 20 November 2017
"Thanks for informing us on Fotis's passing. I have been around EMBC/EMBL long enough to have overlapped with Fotis and know that he was very influential as Director General of EMBL. And of course, we all know what he did for the ERC. Since I did my PhD in Drosophila genetics, I am also aware of his recognition in the field of Drosophila biology and genetics. On behalf of Iceland, accept our sincerest condolences and please communicate this to Fotis's family."
Eirikur Steingrimsson, 20 November 2017
"Malta would like to join the rest of the members and mourn his sad loss, and a loss to the European science as we know it. Our condolences to his family."
Joseph Borg, 20 November 2017
"Really sad news. On behalf of the Swiss delegation, please forward our sincere condolences to Fotis' wife and his family."
Isabella Beretta, 20 November 2017
"On behalf of the Croatian delegation, please accept the most sincere condolences."
Lovorka Barac Lauc, 20 November 2017
"On behalf of Ireland, please accept our sincerest condolences; we would be grateful if these were communicated to Fotis’s family."
Marion Boland, 20 November 2017
"I am sorry to hear this sad news.
Fotis brought to EMBL new scientific concepts and a new management style. He improved the communication between the DG and the staff. I remember the general assembly and how he engaged the staff in the discussion. I suppose he was also getting energy from the hundreds of EMBL people in the audience. He was like a general who speaks to his troops preparing for the battle, in this case to fight for the EMBL in the Council meeting. His DG task was not easy, leading EMBL through difficult times and circumstances. The budget was a problem at that time, limiting his activities. Nevertheless, his initiative to expand developmental biology at the EMBL and the out-stations was important for the vision of the Institute and straightened its inter-disciplinarity and integration in the European scientific community. On the personal side, I had a cordial and frank relationship with Fotis. He supported us before the move to Dresden and, I and my colleagues will always be grateful to him for allowing us to "incubate" our new Institute at the EMBL before moving to Dresden. We are proud that this Institute is structured according to the EMBL model, a model that we have been loving.
Our thoughts are with Sarah and Fotis' family, hoping that they can bring some comfort. Farewell Fotis, you are in our hearts and forever part of the history of the EMBL, our history"
Marino Zerial, 20 November 2017
"It is with great sadness that I learn that Fotis Kafatos passed away. Fotis was a giant in life sciences and a dedicated manager and teacher. We have lost a friend and advocate for European science with a particular emphasis on young promising scientists. He shaped the future of major research institutes and government organizations. His dedication and vision should be an example for all of us."
Daniel Louvard, 20 November 2017
"Fotis recruited me to EMBL administration in 2001, in somewhat unorthodox circumstances, and so began the most interesting and stimulating 15 years of my life. He was a kind, supportive and inspiring boss for whom it was always a pleasure to work and I will forever be grateful to him for what he did for me. I will miss him."
Keith Williamson, 20 November 2017
"I receive this news with deep sadness and send my deepest condolences to Fotis´ family. Apart from his exceptional contribution to science, I would like to highlight the kindness of this great scientist who always smiled every time you crossed paths with him in the EMBL-HD corridor. Rest in peace."
Ana Maria Anus, 20 November 2017
"I have fond memories of speaking with Fotis while I was a visiting scientist from UCLA during the early 90’s. I will never forget his interest, intellect, and deep humanity. He will be missed by many."
Kent Lloyd, 20 November 2017