It is indeed a pleasure to contribute in a small way to this dedicatory volume for the prodigious researcher and teacher, who is also my friend and colleague, John R. Rickford. The editors’ remit to me was that I provide ‘insights into the person that lies at the heart of this impressive research.’ I accepted their invitation, despite the well-known difficulties of constructing a biography in which certain events, and not others, are interpreted as pivotal and are then arranged in a more-or-less causal account (possibly allowing limited roles for ambiguity and chance) of the subject’s life story. I hoped that these narrative difficulties would be mitigated by (1) John’s already extensive reflections on the formative influences of his high school, Queen’s College (QC), in Guyana; (2) my ready appreciation of these influences, owing to the fact that I, too, attended QC seven years before John; and (3) my understanding of, and admiration for, John’s work arising from our research collaborations and from our friendship during nearly four decades of overlap on the Stanford faculty.