A few years ago I went through the process of an application to be recognized as one of the inspirational professors so I know what this process is about. I was not selected and recognize the amazing competition that we have among our colleagues at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. We have incredible educators in our hallways and they should be recognized.
I first met Israel Vizcarra Varela in the summer of 2017 when we were planning our first Semester-i for the computing department. This was a new experience for a team which was dominated by professors in computing (all but Israel) and all but one (again Israel) were full-time professors on our campus. I can honestly say that I enjoyed working with Israel that semester and found inspiration in his approach to teaching, the way he connects with his students and his full grasp of his discipline. I found myself asking him for his opinion on my approaches and we developed an excellent working relationship during that semester which was an award winning project. Continue reading →
This is my first blog post since November 21st when I gave a keynote about stimulating innovation in faculty in Querétaro. That was a great experience and as usual I leave a post with my slides and sometimes some more information gets updated upon reflection upon returning home. The update on that post did not happen.
This blog went silent.
Rod was a fellow nerd so May the 4th seems like as good a day as any to publish this, I’ve been holding onto this draft for months.
Those Long Bus Rides Home
11/21/2015 5:58PM message from Jane: “Ken, Rod died this morning.”
I didn’t see that message until two hours later. I had to process for a full 20 minutes before answering:
I am so sorry my friend.
He was a good friend and a great man.
Take care. Cry. Release. Take solace in family and friends.
Life is not fair.
Time to Reflect
In reality, I knew Rod over many years but we didn’t spend long periods of time together like many close friends do. We met while both doing our undergraduate degrees in Computer Science at the University of Victoria (UVIC).
We had amazing conversations over coffee (mostly) or beers (not as much) during our time at UVIC. I recall great discussions over code in the basement of the Student Union Building (SUB) with Chuck, Tony, Kevin, Bill and others. We were that group of older students (I took two years off during my program and was the youngest of that group) and probably for that reason more focused on our studies.
I graduated in May of 1993, I believe Rod finished later that year. I headed off to graduate school soon after in Seattle then on to Guadalajara in 1995 where I have spent most of the past 20 plus years.
Rod interviewed me at OOPSLA 1996 when I was contemplating moving back to Victoria to work in software engineering. Apparently it went well since I was hired to work at Object Technology International (already bought by IBM at that point) with Rod, Bjorn, Darin and others. My stay there was short but intense and I lived and breathed an amazing environment of what a good software engineering lab should be. We shipped the first release of Visual Age for Java (what would later become Eclipse which so many of us use to this day). Teaching and México called me and I returned to Guadalajara after a short trip through Seattle in 2008.
When I moved to Edmonton to work on my Ph.D. at the University of Alberta in 2005 with a small and growing family I reached out to Rod for advice often on business, research and personal matters. Rod was always good at listening and never one to judge me. He offered advice when I asked for it and his advice was always sound. He also offered some stories of his time growing up in those same Michener Park family residences when he was a young boy.
As we grow older we tend to focus on what is truly important: our family and what we leave behind in this world. I truly believe that Rod always saw that. He took an intense interest in my teaching practices and often asked for clarity on what I was implementing down here at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. I am sure Rod would have been an amazing teacher or professor had he chosen that path.
Farewell My Friend
Rod’s wish was to have a “big party” for him sometime later and indeed there was. Thank you to Jane, Rod’s parents and all others involved in throwing an amazing event. You all truly did an amazing job honouring him.
I wish I could pick up the phone and reach out for advice again but I cannot. I have my memories and I have all that you left behind for us to cherish.
You left so much of you, thank you.
Sail on my friend Rod Olafson, when I see kites flying I will be thinking of you.
I find myself in Vancouver at SIGGRAPH 2014. This was the same location of my first conference back at OOPSLA 1992. I was still an undergraduate student in Computer Science at the University of Victoria, Bjorn Freeman-Benson was my professor of a topic course in Object-Oriented Programming and had invited us to be volunteers at some conference in Vancouver. Little did I know that this would lead to me volunteering with OOPSLA, SIGPLAN and the ACM from 1994 through 2007 as a member of the conference organizing committee.
Strange how one small event leads to so much in life. I could write volumes about how OOPSLA has impacted mine.
This past weekend I attended a reunion for graduates of our program from 1998 and 2003. It has been over 15 and 10 years respectively since these students left our halls and we were happy to welcome them back.