Positive adjectives to describe Dr. Norman Levan, who died Sunday at age 98, flowed from the mouths of speakers like both the staccato bouts of wind and lengthy breezes that fluttered table clothes Wednesday outside Bakersfield College.
Some characterized the late dermatologist and philanthropist as "curious," "unique," "witty," "brash" and "opinionated."
Others shared running quotes and shared memories about his love of food, reading and tennis.
Their messages, some accented with laughter and one paused with tears, were similar. Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian summed up their sentiment.
"We will miss you," she said.
The seated event, held outside the Norman Levan Center for the Humanities Wednesday, was to commemorate the man whose $14 million gift to BC represented the largest donation from a private individual to a community college in the United States, school spokeswoman Amber Chiang said.
She interviewed Levan before his death for more than four hours. She said he and his late wife, Betty, did not have any children.
"He always said BC was his family," Chiang added.
More than 100 guests -- which included a group of past and present college presidents, caretakers and medical professionals representing organizations as near as Los Angeles and as far as Jerusalem -- gathered Wednesday at the BC campus on Panorama Drive.
Paul Jeser, a director of major gifts at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, told the audience about the Israeli chocolates he dropped on tables at the event.
He said he had a 3-pound chocolate turkey delivered to Levan as a gift one year, and he later found out Levan had finished the turkey in two days.
"We know Dr. Levan loved to read," Jeser said.
He added chocolate to that list of loves.
George Ribble, a close friend of Levan's, added tennis. Former Bakersfield Mayor Mary K. Shell added an eagle belt he quickly gave to her when she admired it.
"I wore it in Norman's honor today," she said.
Lisa Roberson, a caretaker of Levan's for about seven years, spoke on behalf of Levan's caretakers who Roberson said thought of Levan like a grandfather.
"I know that we will all miss his quick wit, his breakfast orders -- before he was out of bed -- and his 'hi honeys,' to each of us as he saw us coming in the door during the day," she said.
She fought back tears before she read a passage from one of his favorite books and authors, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.
"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all.
"Do not let the hero in your souls perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserve and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists, and it is real. It is possible. It is yours."
Roberson ended her speech with a few of her own words to Levan.
"You will be missed but not forgotten. I love you," she said. "And Dr. Levan's response was always, 'naturally.'"