I still remember the first day I met Sam. It was in the August of 1990 and I had attended an Engineering Science “get together” and information session with my best friend for all new frosh that were going to be starting their undergrad in September. Sam was also one of those Frosh. His winning smile, easy-going nature and infectious personality were a quick hit with us and, after the meeting, the three of us went to Harvey’s for lunch while Sam amused us with a few “magic” tricks that he had recently learned. During our first year of Engineering Science, Sam and I were both part of a very tightly knit group of about 10 engineering science students who all lived at the New College residence. It was during these study sessions that he quickly (and justifiably) earned the title of “God” from many of us who were in complete awe of his academic abilities, especially when you combined them with his incredibly giving and humble personality. And how many “cat naps” did he take on our sofa!?!?!? He had the ability to sleep for 45 minutes and wake himself up COMPLETELY refreshed to take on the next challenge... I also recall that whenever we would go for a walk through downtown Toronto, we would CONSTANTLY pass people on the street that would hug him warmly and ask what he was up to these days... Even though he was only 18 at the time, he had clearly touched many lives in an extremely positive way.
After our first year, about half of the group (myself included) split into a variety of other engineering disciplines. However, the bonds we all made in that first year were very strong and we continued to socialize throughout our undergrad. Our group even celebrated a 10 year graduation anniversary in 2004 at which I recall Sam had to fly to Toronto in order to attend.
That was the last time I saw Sam.
How to summarize my feelings? I’ve respected and admired him for 20 years. I have proudly mentioned him in hundreds of conversations to people that have never, and will never meet him...
I wish I could have shared with him that I am also a 38 year old engineering professor who my students call “the energizer bunny”.
I wish I could have shared with him that I am also married with a 21 month old daughter who I adore and yet she can stretch my limits like only your child can.
I wish I could have shared with him that our lives appear to have become more similar in some ways over the last few years...
But, most of all, I wish that I could have held him back and reminded him of the title of a song that I wrote and sang for him (and am currently holding in my hands) in our second year when his mother had died and he was becoming introverted in his grief... “There’s more strength in two”.
I’ll miss you Sam.
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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