I think I am one of perhaps hundreds of people who has not spent a great deal of time with Sam, yet considered him a friend, because of his warmth, humor, and infectious enthusiasm. I vividly remember the time he came up to me after a talk I'd given at UAI in Acapulco in 2003. I was flattered that he'd enjoyed the talk despite it being on topics distant from his own, and then impressed by the insights in the questions and comments he posed, all with a kind of sparkle of fun in his eyes... Just the demeanor of someone enjoying what they do immensely, with the ability to make you more excited by their energy.
The fact that I was not among Sam's many close friends, not a direct collaborator, probably helped make me a good choice for one of his letter writers for his move to NYU. That letter begins with the sentence "The preview is that Sam is one of the very best machine learning researchers active today, and certainly one of the stars of his generation; any department would be fortunate to have him." The middle of the letter discusses his work with Lawrence on LLE and remarks "If I were asked to identify just a few pieces of work as being among the most important in the field of machine learning in the last decade, this would certainly be on the list". The conclusion states "You should get Sam if you can."
Indeed NYU was fortunate to get Sam... and as I spend a lot of time in NYC, when I learned he was going there I was excited to think I might see him more often, professionally and socially. Like too many things in a busy life, I waited too long.
Goodbye Sam... it's clear from the posts here that you'll be remembered with limitless affection.
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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