I first met Sam at the University of Toronto when he was visiting from Caltech. I was just starting out in my PhD while he was already far along on his own. He had come specifically to see Zoubin and flesh out an idea for a paper on linear Gaussian models. They worked tirelessly for the time that he was there. It seemed gruelling to me, but Sam was really excited about the way that Zoubin, in his words, squeezed the knowledge out of him. That first impression of him stayed with me.
I was later happy to learn that he decided to join the Gatsby Unit as a postdoc. He was an inspiration in his enthusiasm for his and everyone's research. Whenever he came across a new idea, other's or his own, he was too happy to share it and always explained it in turns of phrase that made the work both fun and exciting.
We were fortunate to have him at the Gatsby for other reasons too. He was a cornerstone of our tight-knit social circle. Whether it was exploring a new restaurant or a club or our regular brunch gatherings which usually stretched into the late afternoon and beyond, Sam was the key to making it fun. I'll remember many happy times: he and Sham trying (unsuccessfully) to teach me rock climbing, Sunday afternoons dancing at Lazy Dog (he had some fantastic moves), or hitting the east end on millennium New Year's Eve.
One of Sam's great qualities was that he took personal relationships very seriously, and worked hard to make them special. If you did something as simple as invite him over for dinner, you were sure to receive one of his hand-written postcards in the mail (kitschy ones which he collected especially for this purpose), saying what a great time he had and thanking you for the hospitality. And even in recent years when we were less in touch, he never forgot to send along a birthday greeting.
A final thought about Sam's generous and inclusive nature, is of one day talking with Sam and my office mate, Brian, in his office at the Gatsby Unit. We were always aware of how fortunate we were to be working in a place with such brilliant people. By way of encouragement Sam offered the insight that even Geoff Hinton started out as a grad student "just like us". This still makes me smile – I didn't consider myself in the same league as him, but it makes me happy that he thought we had that potential. Nobody was just like him.
Our last meeting was over dinner on a trip that my wife and I took to San Francisco. Sam and Meredith showed Myrocia and me a good time at a great restaurant they recommended. He was typically effusive and entertaining with all his stories, but even happier now that he was sharing his life with someone he loved. That is how I will always remember him. Meredith, we give our love to you, Aya and Orli and we pray that you find the courage to cope in this moment.
Sam Roweis died unexpectedly on January 12, 2010.
He was a truly wonderful person; a beloved son, husband and father; and a treasured friend and colleague.
This is a place for all of us who were lucky enough to know Sam to share our memories and to help celebrate his life.
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