Professor Thomas W. Wälde (1949-2008)
Article from: TDM 1 (2009), in Editorial
Professor Thomas Wälde's attention, generosity and free thinking, which he rained upon all, will never be forgotten. He enthralled with his infectious enthusiasm for all that is interesting and amusing in the world. He was quick to impart sage advice to his friends and students; and we are all enriched by it. He was a big man, both in his physique and in his speech. His shining limitless energy shone the brighter in the reflected light of his affable mischief.
We remember him best as a friend, and as a mentor. When he spoke his truth, it was loud, clear and amiable. It commanded attention. If his continental accent was not familiar to English speakers, the content of his ideas were compelling. His immense scholarly production was genius at work.
Being with him was an invigorating experience. His unyielding desire to further the boundaries of scholarly debate, and unflinching support of those that do so, was famous. But his responses to the occasional platitudinous or impertinent remark by anyone on his e-mail list services could be withering. He was an enemy of prejudice, and had little patience for views emanating from sloth or slipshod preparation.
Thomas was very proud of his OGEMID list service, his favourite virtual community. It brought him pleasure to see that network being used to enhance intellectual discourse in a pleasant and courteous manner. He did more than most to establish the international investment law community. He conceived, cherished and moderated OGEMID; that legacy will remain a pillar of the “invisible college” of international lawyers. The torrent of remembrance messages on OGEMID and other e-mail list services he established demonstrate that in his death he managed to achieve that which he yearned for while alive: to have the “lurkers” speak on the network. Let us be sure that he is watching us and reading the e-mails too. From a good place.
Creative and enthusiastic as his moderation of e-mail lists were, Thomas’ was a great and prolific writer. He was dedicated to the life, and the power, of the pen. Those of us that knew him were well aware that beneath his words gushed a perennial waterfall of ideas. He combined in his writings eclectic knowledge, deep insight and extended imagination; his characteristic verve and élan apparent. He was never a citation ideologue. His capacity for work was unmatched, his energy exceptional. As a parent and husband, his intellect and industry were such that in the thick of those myriad obligations, he undertook various initiatives and excelled them, receiving various awards and citations. He started his professional life at the United Nations and subsequent to his move into academia, he led the Center for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy and shaped it into one of the world’s premier educational institutions. A visionary.
Thomas was dignified and had strong hands. He dressed carefully and judiciously. He liked good food, he liked red wine too. He laughed a lot. He engaged with the world and all that is in it; he loved gossip and his home in France. He was devoted to his wife, his children and all he called his students, and proud of them. He was attached to and respected his peers. He enjoyed flirting with the establishment, taking pride in joining a leading set of London barristers. He had a great capacity for friendship and was a steadfast friend. He was unstinting in his belief of the human capacity for profound progress, without hesitation firing off an e-mail from his hand-held communication device, transmitting an idea into the collection of human knowledge. But he was also attached to the simple pleasure that accompanies a good cup of tea while basking in the radiance of the afternoon sun.
Thomas Wälde suffered a tragic accident on October 11th, 2008, making static his dynamic mortal light. He fell off a ladder he was climbing and died in his summer home in the South of France, his favourite environment on physical earth. Someone captured it earlier in tribute: falling down to go up to heaven; typical Thomas. During his lifetime, he invited some of his friends and mentees out to his home, to write, to taste wine, to walk the gardens and to achieve inner-fulfillment. Take a moment to recall the boundlessness of his zest and the warmth of his affection.
His bequeathal to all who inherit his spirit is a sense of purpose, of moral earnestness and of urgency, with which to enhance our time in this world. His belief that the law applies equally to public as to private conduct, that the judicial process for the protection of private interests is an expression of the moral nature of man, and that the sole legitimate purpose of organised society is the protection and amplification of human freedom, was not an academic conviction but native passion. Iridescent passion.
Many thanks to Devashish Krishan, Baker Botts LLP (London) for preparing this text which was circulated on OGEMID and the TDM website in October 2008.