I first met Sam properly when he visited Gatsby in 2003. On the first day of his visit, I was due (with Ed Snelson) to present his LLE paper in our reading group. As a pretty new grad student desperate not to make a fool of myself, I prepared fervently. Of course it wasn't the stressful ordeal I had feared: Sam provided gentle guidance where necessary and stayed quiet when possible. He was also keen to point out shortcomings in his own work, and was more than happy to explore possible fixes on the whiteboard afterwards. Within hours of walking in the door, Sam had made quite an impression on me.
Like Neil, I remember Sam sharing his latest ideas at UAI in Banff... but also his beer tokens: "take these, you'll make better use of them than me".
Sam had an uncanny ability to see connections between seemingly disparate areas of research. How he read and understood so much I'll never know. Sam would ask if I had read some paper that ostensibly wouldn't interest me at all. After a puzzled look he'd then "translate" the ideas into a familiar context, revealing neat insights and tricks. Of course this came with all the clarity and fun apparent in so many of the posts here.
We went climbing in London and when I visited Toronto for the first time. In the gym as in the lab I was completely outclassed by Sam, but his enthusiasm was infectious.
I will always be grateful to Sam for championing my postdoc position in Toronto. His faith in me means a lot. In the years to come Sam's lucid thinking, teaching skill and warmth are sure to be a constant source of inspiration.
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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