By Cassandra Betts
Today the courtyard was filled with students, all gathered to say goodbye to the indescribably influential man who shaped the Reims campus and the many students who have passed through it. It was a chance to say thank you and to offer tokens of gratitude for everything that Professor Ruchet has done. No words, regardless of the language or number, are sufficient to detail the impact that Professor Ruchet has had, on this campus and on the individuals who frequent it, and so few were spoken. Instead, as Professor Ruchet stepped out of the G building after teaching his final Sciences Po course, the courtyard burst into euphony of applause and cheers.
Students clustered in the courtyard, applauding. Some were dressed in formal wear and sneakers in order to honour Professor Ruchet’s habit of wearing a suit and New Balances to supervise exams at René Tys. Some were crying, and some were cheering. A tight circle formed around Professor Ruchet, and the clapping continued.
Finally, the applause subsided and the student body presented Professor Ruchet with some gifts. The UVs provided signed flags and T-shirts while the BDA gave one of their mugs. He was given flowers and a scrapbook full of notes from students, detailing the impact he has had on their lives. Student representatives Zak Vescera and Stella Chen presented him with a pen that was purchased using money gathered from current and former students. “Because this is France, we have to send it to Germany for the engraving,” said Zak, “but we think that ‘our director’ would be fitting, because you will always be our director.”
The moment was supposed to be a gesture of appreciation for Professor Ruchet, an outpouring of love and gratitude for everything he has done for all of his students. And it certainly was; however, Professor Ruchet, in a manner consistent with his personality and his legacy, did not focus on himself. Instead, he once again stepped into his familiar role of supporter and advisor and put his students first. He offered words of wisdom and encouragement, and spoke to the students directly. “I believe in each and every one of you,” he assured all those who were standing in the courtyard. “This program is hard. I know that you have had bad days and bad months. Always remember that you have it in you and that you can definitely succeed in this program. It’s made to offer you a window. If you work hard and are dedicated you will succeed. You might fail micro this time around. Don’t take any bad grade as a judgment on who you are and on your potential. They are just blips along the way. They don’t define you.” Professor Ruchet also took a moment to remember the Sciences Po Colombia dual degree student who had recently passed away. He reminded everyone that life is short and precious, and that we must cherish every moment. “You don’t know what you have until you lose it,” he said. These words certainly rang true. Professor Ruchet has always been an integral part of this campus. He was the person who students went to when they needed something, be it an answer to a question when the rest of the administration neglected to reply to their emails, a concise explanation of The Social Contract, a recommendation for third year, or advice on personal matters. Students appreciated the help he was able to give; however, in the wake of losing him as a director and teacher, his crucial role on this campus has become even more striking.
The moment shared in the courtyard was emotional, and offered a sense of closure. For many, Professor Ruchet symbolizes everything that Sciences Po is meant to be. He represents a devotion to learning for learning’s sake, an academic rigorousness, a brilliance that is difficult to compete with, and a commitment to excellence. He also represents the human contact that many often have trouble finding at Sciences Po. He is genuine and kind, and becomes personally invested in every student’s well being. Today, as he once again took the time to offer students comforting words and emotional support, it was obvious how effectively he has played that role, and how important it has been for everyone present.
In his email to us in October, Professor Ruchet wrote, “I trust that you will continue on the successful path that took you to Sciences Po in the first place.” This path is now more muddled and obscure than ever, not only for individual students who are unsure about their futures but for this campus and Sciences Po as a whole. Today’s goodbye was a bittersweet reminder about how a single man’s actions can help to un-muddle this path, and shape our futures for the better. For every student who has spent time here, Professor Ruchet always has been, and always will be, our director.