In addition to his academic brilliance, I will remember Sam for his genuine human warmth and his contagious energy.
Apart the usual NIPS parties, I remember this time with Sam when he was sitting in the back of our practical machine learning class taught at UC Berkeley in early 2008. Not surprisingly, he could easily blend with the other graduate students -- he was so accessible. We chatted a bit after the class about his current and past projects. He would preface them by some humble disclaimers that he "is just toying with things", nothing grandiose, but then would passionately talk about his ideas, with such energy that you couldn't stop yourself but join him in his enthusiasm. I was surprised at the time by his academic modesty, given how he was shining as an academic star. While talking about his future plans (would he stay in the Bay Area? would he could go back to Toronto?), his family would always seem to come up as the highest priority. We exchanged a couple of emails afterward about a possible visit I could make to Google. And in each exchange, I could feel his genuine human warmth. At the time, I actually had to make a big decision about my post-doc plans, and he selflessly offered that I call him if I needed advice about the different places that I was considering. I am actually quite thankful for the guidance he offered at the time.
I am still in shock with the tragic news. Sam was not just a brilliant researcher, but he was also an amazing person who would leave his positive mark in the people's lives who would be fortunate enough to cross him -- as the many posts below testify. I send my most sincere warm thoughts to his wife and two daughters -- there are no words to describe something like this. I would also like to echo Andrew McCallum's thoughts on the importance of the human dimension in our research community. Even away, Sam could still be building our community...
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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