Amherst Magazine

Vadim Valery Filatov ’86

Vadim Valery Filatov ’86
10/30/2003

One of Amherst’s best, Vadim ‘the Dream’ Filatov died. Never did I imagine having to write these words. Our stunned Russian department friends observed what must have been felt by everyone who knew him—the words ‘Vadim’ and ‘death’ simply do not belong in the same sentence. Tragically, it is true. He lost his courageous fight with a brief illness on October 30. Vadim is survived by his mother Lilian, wife Isabelle, and sons Pierre, eight, Armand, six, and Alexander, one. He was thirty-nine years old.

Vadim was energetic, personable, a doer with a great sense of humor and a contagious passion for life. Twenty-one years ago, just prior to my starting Amherst, an old family doctor said to me: ‘Going to soar with the eagles!’ One of the very best among them happened to be my freshman roommate. It wasn’t a total coincidence—it turned out we both filled out our applications nearly identically, listing soccer, chess, and Beethoven on our forms. His was passionate about his loves throughout his life. He loved chess—he played it for fun, in simultaneous matches outside of Valentine, or late at night for slice of Domino’s pizza. He played in soccer pick-up games at Amherst, Hopkins, and parks of Paris. He passed the love for music that he inherited from his mother to his growing boys. He was a life-long student of human psyche, loved Tolstoy and Balzac and was even brave enough to take acting.

Vadim had to take charge of his destiny early in life. He never wanted praise for his remarkable intelligence—his talents were his parents’ gifts, he said. Vadim measured success by one’s accomplishments. Having come to the US as a teen with nothing to his name, he never shied from putting that philosophy to the test. Learning in general—and Amherst education in particular—opened for him a path to growth, opportunities, intellectual challenges, and lasting friendships. This year, having heard of his diagnosis, he talked about ensuring that his sons would receive a quality education similar to the one he received in Amherst.

In his life, as in a chess game, he looked ahead. Early in Amherst he decided he would become a physician and also fulfill his business ambition. He would not be happy, he said, doing only one thing in his life. Vadim’s winning formula was simple—every achievement had to better the previous one: neuroscience at Amherst, Hopkins Medical School, Yale ophthalmology residency, and Harvard cornea fellowship. He worked as an ER doctor, wrote research papers and textbook chapters, held academic positions, pioneered application of LASIK surgery, helped thousands to live and see better. He accomplished so much because he refused to set limits on what he could and wanted to achieve. His crowning success was his family and his company, Diamond Vision. Vadim was proud in just a few years to build Diamond Vision into the most successful LASIK practice in the tri-state, with five offices and the Filatov Eye Institute in Greenwich. He was just beginning to spread his wings…

Most of all, I will remember Vadim for how he lived. He tried to do so much in every available minute that he seemed to have lived several lifetimes of experiences. Being Vadim’s friend was exhilarating. It was akin to having by your side a whirlwind of an incessant life force. A typical Vadim phone call would go something like this: ‘Hey, Agassi is playing in the US open in two hours—meet me at the gate,’ or ‘There is a Russian cinema festival in town—come over—I know all the guys from my trip to Moscow,’ or ‘We just got back from an amazing jazz festival in the South of France—we want you and Elizabeth to join us next July.’ It seemed as if that torrent would never cease.

So it is only fitting that if you would want to stop and remember Vadim, think of him next time you go dancing after a long day at the office, or go on a trip you just don’t want to put off any further, or reach for the sky simply because you want to. His life was an inspiration to all who loved him. His untimely loss leaves a gaping hole in our hearts.

—Dmitry Dinces ’86

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