When we are young, we generally don’t have a realistic impression of what professors are like. My impression of professors, like many children’s, was formed by Suske en Wiske’s Professor Barabas and Tintin’s Professor Calculus. Now that I’ve worked at a university for a long time, I know there are some full professors who were probably lucky to be awarded their titles and others who are absolutely brilliant, but few of them are like the academics I encountered in the cartoons I used to read.
However, Charles Boucher did live up to my child’s impression of what a professor should be like. He had wonderfully messy hair, round glasses, was pleasantly unconventional and was always asking unexpected and intelligent questions. Generally when I spoke to him, it was in his cramped office between the laboratories on the messy and run-down floors of Erasmus MC’s old high-rise building. He was not bothered by his surroundings. He didn’t come across as a man who felt he was owed splendour on account of his title.
Loved by his students
Charles was a virologist, and judging from the various obituaries I’m reading now that he has passed away, he was very good at his job. We hardly ever discussed that, because Charles’s interests encompassed much more than just virology and Erasmus MC’s labs. He was popular with students who were taking Erasmus MC’s honours class, and highly engaged in what was going on at Erasmus University. That’s how he first came to my attention when I tried to find a new chairman for Erasmus Magazine’s Editorial board.
I was looking for a full professor with a wide range of interests and a passion for independent journalism. And in order to somewhat bridge the ever-present gap between the Woudestein and Hoboken campuses, I wanted the chair to be someone affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine. People told me Charles was the person I was looking for, and they were right.
Articles should be ‘up to an academic standard’
Despite his busy life, Charles always found the time to discuss the trends in independent academic journalism. He was a driving force behind EM’s transition from a largely hard-copy medium to a fully online platform. He enthusiastically initiated a huge brainstorming session where he invited the advisory board, freelancers, editors and experts to discuss the future of EM. For an entire afternoon, we spitballed, and when we were done, we had a beer and bitterballen at the Ballentent on the banks of the river Meuse.
I remember we had a very lively discussion on the meaning of independence for EM that afternoon, and also in subsequent meetings of the Editorial board, because while Charles was a keen supporter of freedom of the press, he did believe that EM’s articles should be ‘up to an academic standard’.
I cherish fond memories of our collaboration and of the support and confidence he gave the editors and the editor-in-chief (myself) in carrying out their journalistic duties as an independent part of our academic community.
On behalf of the editorial board and all current and former members of the Editorial board: thank you, Charles!
Editor-in-chief, Erasmus Magazine