In Memoriam: Alvaro Angeriz
This is real misfortune. It’s not bad luck which arrives, insistent, fickle, then moves on, this is misfortune, aged, cold, green as slime. It does not arrive and install itself: it’s different, has nothing to do with events, even though it may use them to show itself; sometimes misfortune just is. And it is here now…
The Shipyard, Juan Carlos Onetti
Dr Alvaro Angeriz, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Queen Mary, University of London, died in hospital on Wednesday 11th January 2012. He was appointed in 2008. Elena his partner was with him all the time. Alvaro was diagnosed with leukaemia in December 2010 and wrote to colleagues in the department on 4th January 2011:
It’s difficult to handle this one. I have blood cancer. I’ve learnt it not many days ago and so I had time to think of various reasons why I can expect whichever of the outcomes in peace and relaxed. I won’t bother you with these. I also thought of ways to deal with. One of these goes as a kind request. I don’t want to talk about this situation.
I won’t be able to do some tasks, but I will carry on with the remainder in the middle of a treatment which have points where I will be washed out, but a line has infinite other points, of which I will take advantage. This will help me, I expect. So I’ll keep contacting several of you.
I thought or rather I wanted to believe that Alvaro will quickly recover entertained by his emails which were very informative and funny. On 24th January he wrote:
[…]life here is marked by some illnesses that start and fade without knowing what they were. You're entertained by all these diagnosis devises which seemed invented for the rest of the people to study them. I think I have used all of them. I'll spare you the details, but the worse so far was a sample they took from my bone marrow. It took the doctor like 5 minutes to put me in the best position for doing it, and when I was ready I asked to go to the toilet. The reaction from the doctor was fantastic! I remembered of a friend who after his 3rd heart attack he decided to do and say everything he wanted. He was quite clever also, ended up a bit lonely, but what a star!!!
There are bits that follow in this email about his real or imagined relationships that are best kept to the imagination and yet he wanted to lessen the pain of those who were also suffering. The determination of the tackler emerged with great clarity from time to time:
Right on time that cougar pounce and the edge needed to succeed. I’ll push, my man. I promise.
And by Christmas just gone he was still in good spirits, despite his Autumnal fall:
They release the beast! Next Tuesday, I go in for chemo then transplant and finally, the aftermath which is the real match. I hope it goes as smooth as the final just finished between Barca and Santos but it may not. Events (and the environment) are random. My aim then is to control my spirit as much as I can. Anyway, ambitions so far. I’ll keep you posted, my friend.
The New Year, as it does for us all, kept him full of hope.
I can imagine your fantastic Christmas: family and kids running around. I'm sorry I have been away from communications for a while. The transplant and chemotherapy went all right. An uninvited guest is the mucositis. This is chemo's (or the transplant's?) second effect, which everybody gets. By loosing epitelio (don't know how to say it in English) in the digestive system, it can produce pain in the belly and in the mouth. Put like this sounds almost unharmful, but let me tell you that sometimes it hurts as if Goias would've scored twice in the last 5 minutes. Sharp first and then when you see a Nautico supporter it comes again as if in a hangover. Good thing is that I'm several days closer from it's end and that with Elena we are now learning how to manage it. it'll be ok.
Alvaro came to Queen Mary from the University of Cambridge where he remained a Research Fellow at the Centre of Economic and Public Policy and at Wolfson College. His research was in the field of applied economic policy analysis and covered a broad range of issues on spatial economics, housing policy, poverty, environmental economics and monetary policy.
His real love, was football. He played for Sidgwick Dynamo in the MCR league and in regular knock-abouts at both Kelsey Kerridge and Leckhampton with several generations of academics and research students at Cambridge and frequently just toyed with them in his wake. He could dribble off either foot and Messi-anically control the ball. He also tackled like a Uruguayan, which is a complement. Almost uniquely for an economist-footballer he underestimated his skills – the pubs are full of the complementary sets. His zeal for learning and for playing was reflected in the manner in which he addressed his own illness. An early email in January 2011 to the locals was informative and outward-looking:
This one, for a change, is about good news. In these two days, we had a couple of more senior opinions to the one given on Friday telling us that nothing relevant changed, and that the piece of news given to us on Friday were not that relevant in order to compose a general assessment of my 'condition'. One of them was given by the boss of the guy who dropped the bomb and left. The other one, by a colleague of Elena, who worked here at a high level for 8 years.
What they say is that what matters for the analysis of risk (and therefore the next treatment) is a citogenetic analysis (how chromosomes are relating) and new evidence taken in 15 days from a bone marrow. All this will be known in about a fortnight.
The evidence coming existed, but apparently on its own may not mean great deal once other events are considered. Anyway, nothing to celebrate, but at least some other options are still opened.
The bad news today is that I lost almost all my hair today. On Sunday it started dropping and to cut the chase I asked them to cut my hair to a number 3, if you know what I mean. If you don't I mean that now I look exactly as my grandfather, a spanish who always surprised me with his huge ears and nose. The next step apparently is to go to 0 (they didn't want to hit me so hard in one strike the nurses).
During these long months in hospital, Alvaro continued to work and to communicate with both colleagues and students. He organized one summer school in June and one winter school in December, both were extremely successful. The Winter School on Bayesian Methods for Empirical Macroeconomics was held this past December. It was taught by Dr. Gary Koop, and attracted many high-level delegates. Organizations represented included the ILO, OECD, European Central Bank, Central Bank of Venezuela, Bank of Italy, Central Bank of Ireland, Indonesian Central Bank, and various government departments and research centres. Many delegates travelled quite far to attend, and those present hailed from Indonesia, Japan, Venezuela, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Hungary, and all over the UK. A lengthy waiting list indicated the extensive international interest in this School following the success of the 2011 Summer School run by Alvaro, and those who attended were incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to do so.
For Alvaro, problems were fun, had to be solved and explained in clear terms. He was both part of the process of illness and also able to stand outside it: patient and observer rolled into one. He even made himself into something of a celebrity at the hospital:
Stories, apparently they circulate among nurses. Things I did, but they find odd enough to start telling themselves stories. The world is so odd that when a normal person as this humble reporter arrives, everyone finds him very odd. The last one they told me was when I arrived to my bed in this common room and they tell me that before arriving to my bed I went one by one to the rest of the beds to introduce myself and know about the story of the neighbours. They may have thought I was canvassing!
When he was talking about his illness, he would first have done the data analysis and then he would proceed by giving you a full assessment of the situation with even some consideration for the disease. But despite his saying “my spirit is intact”, the disease did not go away and just when we thought he was going to announce us his return among us, he wrote on 12th December 2011:
Well, I’m sorry to take some more of your time for my personal issues. I had a relapse on the leukaemia that was discovered almost a year now. Some leukaemia cells which were not perceivable by science, but very good for hiding and resisting all attacks with the chemicals, survived. You cannot help but to have some sympathy for them. Then they reproduced like rabbits in the summer and there we go.
As I tell you this, I remember amazing welcoming feelings in multiple forms which I received from you in June. So uplifting! Very good news is that I’m in remission and this let me attempt a second strategy, which is a bone marrow transplant. For this, I need to pass what seems to be the mother of all chemotherapy rounds. Doctors have been assessing my organs to assess how much I can take. The results have been all right, so the beating threatens to be phenomenal. I shouldn’t have blown so hard into those machines!
I’ve never had problems with chemo rounds so far, so I’m naively relying in my good luck for the future. My spirit intact…
The date for the transplant is about the 29th, then there will be 4/6 weeks in isolation in hospital, and another period to complete the coming back. The doctors tell me that April may be when I’ll be ready to come back. It’s all very random, but I imagine your faces already. I miss you all.
And we missed him. And now we will always miss him. When I say we I do not mean only friends and colleagues but students. When Alvaro died I wrote to Farhan Amir who answered quickly:
This has come as a shocking news to all of us. He wasn't only a great lecturer but was a great friend and moral support to all of us. We will do everything we can and will send you all the recollections we have.
Alvaro was extremely modest about his achievements and had to be persuaded to apply for being promoted to senior lecturer but despite his popularity with students I failed to convince him to apply for the Drapers Prize. The students loved him so much that they created a 'facebook' page called: ‘Alvaro is a frickin legend’ (http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=73325946536) where they wrote “This guy is Awesome!” and “Bare love!” and also students’ favourite quotes such as:
In Theees module we doo Statisteeeeks, BUH we also look a thaaa probabiliteee
Guys, Guys remember SPOH DEST next week! salud!
This guy totally rocks! RESPECT
There have been already so many tributes as on his facebook pages showing the deep universal respect and affection that people had for him:
There is no surprise there as he was such a good friend that - even when he was ill in hospital he would contact you to know how you were.
Alvaro came to Cambridge on and off from 1999 onwards and worked on a number of projects at the Department of Applied Economics and then latterly at the Judge Business School. He showed vibrancy, enthusiasm and good humour at work. And he added a much needed sense of mischievous realism – a Uruguayan relation of the magical kind – to a Department that still betrayed its dour post-war origins. He would ask questions and then answer them before his interlocutor has had even mulled over the alternatives. To him research was an apt reflection of life: as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But equally it was also not to be taken too seriously either, as it was simply a way of occupying ourselves between the two great goalposts of arrival and dispatch.
That he passed away in Cambridge so soon after he had made a life within the community of this town is simply a trick of longevity statistics that only he could smile about. He developed a wide range of academic interests at Cambridge and worked on projects as varied as electricity prices, female labour supply in developing economies, regional poverty and even price convergence under EMU. As he would have said had he been alive: “it is a pity that the Euro outlived him’’. And whilst he worked on these varied topics, learning much and imparting this new found knowledge to all, often on or just-off the football pitch, he also developed his technical understanding of statistical problems and simulation techniques. So much so that when the time came to teach formally at Queen Mary he quickly became a hugely popular teacher. He leaves behind his long-term partner Elena Vigorito and a very long trail of grieving friends and colleagues. Alvaro radiated with joy, generosity and intelligence, and will always be remembered.
Details of commemorative events will be circulated in due course
Jagjit Chadha and Brigitte Granville with contributions from Farhan Amir, Tiago Cavalcanti, Andrew Harvey, Teresa da Silva Lopes, Sushanta Mallick, Martha Prevezer, Shannon Sutton and Melvyn Weeks.
If you would like to contribute a message for posting on these pages, you are warmly welcome to email us.
"I am deeply saddened by the tragic untimely and unexpected passing away of Alvaro. He was really a wonderful man and we will all miss him. He has not only left a void in all our lives but also in the hearts of all those who came in contact with him even once. He inspired us all including our students whom he taught or gave advice. Alvaro taught quantitative methods, making it a most interesting subject for all our students. Alvaro had a broad research interest and made several contributions including a key contribution in the area of monetary economics bringing a much-needed rigour to assess inflation targeting through intervention analysis. Alvaro was really enthusiastic about his work, and always eager to be helpful to others. It is difficult to imagine that he is no more. May his soul rest in peace!"
In sadness, Sushanta Mallick, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary
"It is very hard to believe that Alvaro will no longer be among us. He was such a wonderful person, always joyful and helpful to everyone. I will never forget the first day I met him at the business school. He was always so positive, a real sunshine to the university. I remember asking him about some clarification related to the topic he was teaching; he was so brilliant. In fact, despite being very busy with his work, he allocated me some of his time in order to explain to me the regression analysis. I stayed in touch with him through emails, and I was very impressed by his courage and the way he coped with all the difficulties he was facing this past year. All my thoughts go to his family and loved ones. May he rest in peace; he will be always in our hearts!"
Nadia Benbouzid, PhD student at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary