By Aristotle Vossos
On December 1st, we said goodbye to Olivier Ruchet, a man who has meant so much to this campus for the past six years. It was a bittersweet occasion, more bitter than sweet, but it was moving to see how many students showed up to wish him a proper goodbye. 1As and 2As alike, we gathered to say goodbye to someone who has meant so much to us over the past three or fifteen months. It was even more incredible to see how many 3As and graduated students showed their support through social media and donations to fund his gift, showing how important Pr. Ruchet has been to this campus.
It is difficult to imagine how I could feel that Olivier Ruchet has affected me. How could I possibly have stories to share after only three months at Sciences Po? As it happens, Pr. Ruchet and I met long before I arrived in Reims. No, I’m not talking about my interview for the Dual BA, though he was one of the two men interviewing me, and he was as intimidating as you can imagine him to be. I met Professor Ruchet in May, when I came to visit Reims.
I was a lost high school senior, having just finished my exams. I was expecting to feel an incredible weight lifted off my shoulders, as if I was finally free. And yet that didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be done with school. But I was lost – had I made the right choice choosing Sciences Po? I was going to miss integration week – what did that mean? What was integration week? Did we have to cancel our summer plans? Would I fail all my classes once I got here? And (most importantly) would I ever find an apartment? Incredibly, Professor Ruchet solved all these problems. He assured us that there would be no problem, I would be able to catch up easily. He told me that his door was always open, as I would soon find out, and that I could come by with any questions I might have. He even suggested a real estate agency from which I found the apartment in which I currently live. I left his office feeling at ease. With Ruchet here, I knew that I wouldn’t be lost.
They say that actions speak louder than words, and Olivier Ruchet’s actions certainly show who he is as a person. He has consistently showed us that he cares about us, about our campus, about our academics, and above all, about how we’re doing. I’ve heard countless stories of students who were on the verge of dropping out and decided against it after talking with Ruchet. This Thursday, in what was an improvised speech – making it all the more impressive – Professor Ruchet did not take one moment to talk about himself. He focused solely on us, thanking us for what we did for him, but also reminding us that we’re worthy. We belong at Sciences Po. We are good enough. We are not defined by our grades. We are not defined by the micro final. He reminded us that he believes that each and every one of us will succeed. There will be bumps along the road – that’s life, and Ruchet knows that just as well as anyone.
Personally, I went through a rough time in October where I seriously considered dropping out. I was going to go see Ruchet as soon as I returned from break, only to find out that he was no longer here. But that didn’t matter. Because even though he wasn’t physically here, he was still here. Every day that we go to class, we see Olivier Ruchet. And though we may no longer see him in A105, in his classes, walking down the hallways or in the courtyard, we still see him in the curriculum that he has built, in the campus that he has created, and above all, in each other. Many of us would not be here were in not for this man, and had it not been for him, who knows what we would be studying right now. The future is unclear, and for a while it seemed that he was there to cut through the weed and show us the path. But university is all about flying away from the nest and going down “the road less travelled”, and I take comfort in knowing that, at least for my class, the last class to have been screened by Professor Ruchet and to have felt his direct effect, we are prepared. I worry for the students to come, who will be interviewed by someone else, who will arrive in Reims next August and receive an integration speech by a new director. But for now, let’s take one last moment to honour his legacy, and be thankful for everything he has done for us. And through our actions, let us truly make him ‘our director’ for many generations to come.