I first met Jim in Austria at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analyses (IIASA) in 1982. I came to IIASA with good mathematical background and worked on application of probabilistic methods to analyzing changes in population health and survival. Andrei Rodgers, who was the Leader of Population Program at IIASA this time, paid my attention to the paper written by Jim Vaupel, Ken Manton, and Eric Stallard (1979) about hidden heterogeneity in individual susceptibility to death (frailty model). Andrei informed me that Jim is currently at IIASA visiting Risk Project.
I called Jim, we met, and talked about many interesting ideas in demography and survival analysis. Jim was open minded, friendly, full of energy, and very enthusiastic to realize the ideas we briefly discussed. I must say that my English at that time was not so good, however, Jim had enough patience and politeness to tolerate my numerous requests to repeat and explain something which I did not get. Despite this obstacles, we started working together and produced several interesting papers about hidden heterogeneity in survival analyses. I enjoyed working with nice, well-educated, knowledgeable, and talented person on interesting research problems. I also felt that my English is getting better. Jim introduced me to Bodil, his wife, who suggested to use the word «frailty» for individual susceptibility to death. Jim’s energy and open personality attracted several other smart people around him. Later we decided to organize IIASA the Young Scientists Summer School for demographers. Many participants of this School are now internationally recognized demographers.
After IIASA we decided to continue our joint research in the area of demographic frailty and survival. I returned to Moscow, Jim got position at University of Minnesota and received P01 NIA grant on studying aging and survival of the oldest old. Jim suggested me to join his research team at Minnesota to work on survival models for related individuals (twins). After Minnesota we continued working on this topic in Denmark, and later in Germany at the Max Plank Institute for Demographic Research where Jim was founding Director.
I could not realize working at IIASA how regular communication with Jim and nice people around him will result in substantial changes in my life: I am currently Research Professor, and co-Director of the Biodemography of aging Research Unit at Duke University, USA. This April Jim planned to organize several workshops at Duke, and several months ago we discussed topics that would be interesting to discuss at these workshops.
I must say that Jim had wonderful ability to attract talented, enthusiastic, and hard-working young people. He liked these people and helped them a lot. He showed them not only how to deal with important scientific issues, but also how people from different countries with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds could help each other, productively work together, and produce high quality research. His passing is a huge loss for us all. I will always remember Jim as a good friend, kind man, talented scientist and the Leader in the research field.