Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash, Jr. was tragically killed last June in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. On October 24 in Princeton, NJ, the extraordinary life of John Nash, including his many lost years in the maelstrom of schizophrenia, was celebrated at a memorial service hosted by Princeton University’s Math Department on the Princeton campus. The keynote lecture was given by Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, which became the subject of the Oscar nominated movie of the same name starring Russell Crowe. Nasar recounted Nash’s amazing life–and especially heralded the heroic role his dear wife Alicia played as a family member in Nash’s ultimate recovery.
PsychOdyssey’s Tom Pyle attended Nasar’s lecture. Tom offered his own undergraduate remembrance of John Nash during his lost years, when Nash was literally a deluded, disheveled, and destitute drifter wandering in Firestone Library in the 1970s. So strange did Nash seem that undergraduates at the time, invoking a comparison to a popular TV superhero show of that era called The Six Million Dollar Man, callously dubbed the Firestone phantom “the Six Dollar Man.” Two decades later, Tom nearly choked on his breakfast when reading the front page of the New York Times. The 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to… The Six Dollar Man!
Although Tom did not know it then, Nash’s haunting presence in Firestone Library was Tom’s first exposure to schizophrenia, which later would befall his own family’s life. At the end of Nasar’s lecture, Tom rose to share his recollection–and to express his admiration especially for Alicia Nash and for all family and friends of loved ones with schizophrenia who persevere to keep them connected and thus keep alive the flame of hope for recovery. As Tom stated:
This was the first time schizophrenia touched my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. Schizophrenia then came on to touch my own family’s life, in which a dear family member has been through many of the experiences that John Nash had, by which I came to understand the great tragedy of schizophrenia, but also some great blessings–especially, as you have noted, Alicia standing by him and the importance of family support and, may I say, for the support of the University and all his colleagues who welcomed him back… So critical is this!
So I just wanted to put it out there… I highly appreciate all the support and attention that was drawn to him and to those who have schizophrenia. God bless the University, God bless John Nash, and especially God bless Alicia, his dear wife!
Sylvia Nash’s 45 minute memorial to the life of John Nash can be viewed below. Tom’s 90- second remarks begin at 43:00.