The memory of His Royal Highness

Once upon a time, I met a His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent.

HRH The Duke of Kent at RiAus Adelaide Reef

The story of how that happened was pretty cool from my perspective, but every so often I wonder about it from his perspective. The Duke is the patron of the Royal Institution of Australia, and was in Australia just as they were displaying their installation of the Institute for Figuring’s Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef. So they organised a special viewing for him, to which a few key people were invited. One of those people was me, since I was the mathematician involved in the project.

I had a short but pleasant conversation with an old man about geometry and what it was like to be a man crocheting in public. We’re laughing in the photo, so somebody must have said something funny, though I don’t remember what it was. And that was it.

I suppose His Royal Highness meets a lot of people, so I might not make much of a difference to him. But every so often I think about how when he thinks about his time in Adelaide, there I am, if even for a moment (perhaps made just a little more memorable due to the rarity of meeting people standing in a roomful of coral made of yarn). I am part of the life memory of the Queen’s cousin.

Which gets me thinking…

Many of the students who I meet through my work in the MLC, I only meet once. Yet what happens with me will be a part of their memory of their time at university, however small. My short time with them is entangled forever with the events of their lives during their study. Will that moment with me make their memories more or less pleasant? Will it encourage them or discourage them? Will I just confirm their worst fears about themselves, or will it be at all like this student, who one visit to a lab in one class made all the difference?

Every one of these students is important to someone, much more than a Royal who lives on the other side of the world is important to me. And I am there in their memory for better or for worse. This inspires me regularly to be the best I can be with each and every one of the students, especially that very first time I meet them.

Because once upon a time, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent met me.

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