Deceased March 27, 2016
Scott died. I wasn't there. But I know it's true. I was with him two weeks before in Spanish Harlem where he and Sochua were staying after leaving Mount Sinai. I knew then, as he knew and Sochua knew. His cancer had spread, as the doctor said, “like sesame seeds scattered across the lining of his stomach.” I knew when Felix, Malika’s husband, Scott’s son-in-law, called the morning of the operation to say that they couldn’t complete the surgery. I knew then, as I know now, that our friend, Scott, a person of such sensitivity, kindness, and generosity, had no choice but to leave us.
His nibbana came at his friend Karl’s lakeside home outside Boston March 27th, one of Scott’s refuges from his long hiatus in Manhattan that began last August when he flew in for the summer, only to learn he had pancreatic cancer. Until December, Scott was in spry health and fine spirits. Friends came from around the world to see him, for people loved Scott deeply, feeling the rare joy he found in each of them. He spent his last Christmas holidays at his brother Bruce’s with Sochua and his daughters, Devi and Thida, looking out at the Puget Sound, listening to water lapping by the shore.
Scott, the son and grandson of Presbyterian missionaries to China, found his professional calling in Cambodia. From 1978 through 1980, Scott and I had traveled from London to the Alhambra, from Marrakesh to Lamu, from Juba to Jerusalem, from Aleppo to Esfahan, from Herat to Kathmandu and on to Aranyaprathet, Thailand. “We sought to make the world home,” as Scott described our journey without maps.
At the end of that long road, Scott found his home working with Khmer refugees where he met Sochua Mu, a beautiful human rights activist-cum-politician, who, in a sacred synchronicity, had returned to work in Cambodia from Berkeley (Scott’s hometown). They married on the border in 1983. Then Scott spent his life in Phnom Penh raising his three beloved daughters and, through the UN, dedicating his career to help rebuild that crippled nation. No American, it’s safe to say, has done more for the people of Cambodia than our classmate, Scott Cory Leiper.
There are few who have lived, played, loved and worked as joyfully, as wisely, as genuinely, in the private and public worlds, as our friend Scott Leiper. He made us whole, he always did.
Keith D. Leslie ’76