Jim Vaupel was inspiring. It was the second week of 2006-07 EDSD year in Rostock. He had just returned from Duke and took immediately the opportunity to welcome us, the newcomers to the world of demography: «Welcome to the place where the flame of Demography burns the brightest!» Jim liked expressing lofty ideas in an elevated manner. One can see this in most of his articles, too. He was eloquent and vivid, convincing and analytic, passionate and inspiring. No matter if in a written or verbal form, Jim always had an interesting and meaningful story to tell. A story about complex phenomena, a story synthesized skillfully to convey the main message at the appropriate level of detail, a story with a perfect logic, a story that brings up questions to the next level of complexity. After talking to Jim, it was impossible to leave the room without some extra rays of light in your heart and mind. He was born to inspire.
Jim Vaupel was energetic. When I met him for the first time, I was amazed how he can be director in Rostock, full professor and head of a research institute at Duke, chair or member of a dozen scientific boards, and live in Denmark with his family. All at the same time! Not even mentioning his research output. He was able to quickly switch topics and get to the depth needed in each of them, spreading his enthusiasm around. Above all, though, he liked deep discussions in a quiet relaxed environment. Over a cup of tea, of course. He was keen on getting to the big questions and whenever he had one in sight, he was after it. Day and night – yes, all who worked with Jim can confirm getting emails about exciting research during any part of the day, night, or holiday. His energy always drove him to get to the next level of complexity. Once he got there, he wanted to convey the mechanisms of the phenomenon by the simplest possible means. This requires deep thinking and deep understanding! He always found time for this. «All beautiful things are simple», he used to say, and, yes, they are.
Jim Vaupel was supportive. He was an open and giving person. He knew how to take, too, but never disproportionately. He was supportive both scientifically and personally – to me and many others. Jim knew that if you feel comfortable, you will have the inspiration not just to get the work done, but dive deep into the topic and get to the next level of complexity. Jim Vaupel was a visionary. He was either founder or active actor in establishing Europe’s most important demographic institutions from the mid-1990s onward. Even though he proclaimed Demography to be «Births, Deaths, and Mathematics», he had always seen it as an interdisciplinary field that can benefit from knowledge in other disciplines. Jim was looking for excellence, across various backgrounds and all over the world, to establish networks capable of doing outstanding research.
Jim Vaupel was enthusiastic. When he was around, one could always hear his cheerful voice. He was always inspired about something. Jim always wore red socks, loved listening to classical music, and was completely indifferent to football. He showed zero enthusiasm to see Messi’s Barcelona at Camp Nou when he was invited during one of his visits at CED. When Roland Rau and I were chatting about football, Jim wanted quickly to change the subject. Until… last year when Jim told me enthusiastically how he attended a «soccer» game of his grandson and «Can you imagine, Trifon, his team won 3:2 and he scored all 3 goals!»
I will always be grateful for Jim’s support and trust in me. I will miss his positive mindset and energy, his innovative and sharp thinking, his zeal and passion to uncover new relationships. For me, it was not a particular place, it was Jim who made the flame of Demography burn the brightest. It is now the turn of us all, Jim’s students and collaborators, to carry the torch.