A TRIBUTE TO Dr. PAO: A DEDICATED SCIENTIST, ENGINEER, INNNOVATOR AND BUSINESS LEADER
by Dr. Dao Bui
I met Dr. Pao by destiny. In 2007, after retiring from SBM Offshore, I was not ready to take on new challenges. One day out of the blue, my niece called me and insisted that I meet Dr. Pao. I came along for lunch at Jasmine restaurant in Houston. There I heard Dr. Pao told me about his vision for Floating Windfarms. The lunch lasted for nearly four hours. I was struck by his ambition, enthusiasm, energy and vision. Offshore wind is not just about clean and renewable energy, but it represents modernization, new hope for people all over, and making war over energy obsolete. For him, Floating Windfarms was a quest, a mandate from heaven that he needed to accomplish. I was sold immediately on this mission.
For the next three years, I was his close companion. We talked daily on the phone. He told me about his experience with his first product. Being an expert in fluid dynamics, he came up with the idea of using high jet streams as a machine tool to cut very hard material into complicated forms and shapes. He formed Flow International. After many round of pitching his invention to customers, he found an industry that was willing to give him a try. It was Kimberly Clark, a baby diaper manufacturer. I can remember during my sons’ baby years, the diaper was always loose at the thigh causing leakage and messiness. Kimberly Clark used Dr. Pao’s invention to cut curved diapers, enabling a tight fit around the baby’s leg. Flow International became one of the best performing IPOs of 1983. It’s amazing that such a clever invention turned up in a very unexpected place. Using his expertise in Low Level Jet Stream, he located the best site for his wind farms in Altamont and Tehachapi passes. These are still the best spot in the areas. Dr. Pao was a member of the US Engineering Academy, an honor that only a few engineers achieved.
Even though I have traveled widely during my petroleum career, Dr. Pao and I journeyed and met many people that I had not known before. I made many new friends and met many leaders in business and technology all over the world. Many of these people were investing group that we tried to obtain funding from. There were lots of up and down project wise as well as emotionally, but through it all, Dr. Pao was the Rock of Gibraltar: solid and firm, believing in the cause that it will be done, and clean and renewable energy will be the best thing that ever happened to mankind. The more I came to know Dr. Pao, the more I admired his character. He is firm, totally dedicated; completely focused but a very generous person. Always thinking of the welfare of others before his, it was clear that he took on Floating Windfarm as a conviction, not of his own nor his family, but also for all his associates and humankind. One time while we were in Taipei visiting business and technology leader, I took advantage of a free morning before leaving for the airport to tour the National Museum. Dr. Pao was supposed to visit his brother and sister and together they would visit their parents’ grave. I met him at the airport and asked him about his visit. He told me that he was at the hotel the whole morning, finishing up a funding proposal. We visited venture funds all over the world, from Gothenburg, Sweden to London, Beijing, Singapore, and Malaysia. We met with Sir Paul Judge for whom the Business School in Cambridge University was named after. We met with Tun, Tan Sri, Datuk in Malaysia and Singapore. We ate in highly elaborated banquets as well as in McDonald or hawker centers, staying in 5 stars as well as airport transit hotels. But through it all with us, there is only the mission and the quest.
Like a magnet, I was attracted to Dr. Pao because he is my antithesis. He was always impeachable dressed. His hair, his shirt, his tie, his suits always went together well. The way he walked, the way he talked, the way he explained things to others always had a seriousness about it. When we first met, he told me about my belly, that I needed to lose some weight to improve my posture and my health. He told me about Dr. Sear and the cod fish oil, and how it saved his health. As a matter of fact, I gained 20 lbs for the time I travelled with Dr. Pao. But unlike a magnet, I was drawn to Dr. Pao because of my respect and admiration for him. I saw in him the talent and quality that I would love to have, the achievement that I would like to be a part of.
I treasured the time I was with Dr. Pao. When the project moved to China, it was hard to tell him that I could not go with him to Hang Chow. It is hard to move yourself from a project that I believe that I had prepared all my life for. But as is life, things come and go outside of your own control or wishes. But I will always have my time with Dr. Pao and just like all of us here, we all have part of him forever.
Dr. Pao is the everready bunny that keep on going and going, a marathon runner. Such is life. But more than that, life is also a relay. Dr. Pao has passed the baton to the next runner. Like a drop of rain, it enters the stream. Then stream becomes a tributary, that becomes a river and eventually will enter the vast ocean. I strongly believe that his quest will one day ring true and we will all be grateful for the one who took the first step in passing the baton.