Softly, shyly, Dr. Roland B. Scott enters the room.
Immediately, friends and colleagues of more than 35 years surround him. Gently they shake his hand, smile and lean over his shoulder protectively to block other, more boisterous guests.
He is Howard University's internationally-known expert on sickle cell anemia, among the first black physicians accepted in the American Pediatric Society.
Last night he retired.
Though it was Scott that was to be honored at the formal retirement dinner at the Hyatt Regency, many of the guests said they felt honored just to have known him.
"He is a man of many parts," said Dr. Marian Mann. dean of the Howard Medical School. "He is a man born with the wisdom of years and has had a great influence on blacks all over the nation."
Scott almost single-handedly brought sickle cell anemia, a hereditary blood disease found primarily in blacks, to the attention of the world.
He has been a powerful force in medicine as pediatrician, educator, researcher.
Yet his personality is unobstrusive, his manner is calm.
Although there was a crowd of over 150 at the dinner, the conversation was kept at a low murmur, as if the guests were taking their cue from Scott. His calming presence was felt.
"Dr. Scott, professionally, has always been serious, straight-forward and dedicated," said Dr. Stanley Sinkford. "And in many ways, his private life is the same. Oh, if there were dancing here he'd be out in the center of the floor. But generally, well, he's awe-inspiring."
Scott is a frail man now with graying, close-cropped hair and extremely thick wire-rimmed glasses. His friends describe him as energetic, a moving force behind a calm facade, almost a maniac for detail and study.
"When I was studying under Dr. Scott, we would often go to his house to review data after work," said Dr. Melvin Jenkins, chairman of the pediatric department at Howard. "We would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning until I learned his weakness.
"One beer and he gets sleepy," Jenkins laughed. "After I found that out, I could always get him to quit studying before dawn."
And Scott is not about to let mere retirement stop him either. He is "much too busy for that," he said.He has been organizing an international association of sickle cell experts to try to standardize testing methods and expedite information flow throughout the world.
"If I had to answer what my most important contribution has been in medicine, I would say that it was teaching blacks that they alone are not the victims of sickle cell," Scott said. "We are finding that people in the Mediterranean, South American and Arabian countries are often affected."
He proudly counts off his new projects with the assurance of a man who has other things in his future than fishing.
"Well, actually, I'm not really retiring . . . not really," he said chuckling. "This is all just for show. We're going to go through the motions and then I go back to work on Monday morning."
It seems the good doctor has applied for his position on a year-to-year basis. He is, of course, a sure win.
"Really", he said. "The whole thing is just an excuse to have a party."