The day Sam joined our department at the University of Toronto back in 2001 was a very special one for me, and during this tragedy I'm only now beginning to understand how special that day really was. I clearly recall how excited we were after his interview talk, and at the prospect of his joining us. When he arrived, his impact was immediate. Just being in the same room with him seemed to brighten any experience, whether it was hearing his honesty at a faculty meeting, his insightful questions during a talk, his own fantastic lectures and seminars, or the energy he injected into any social situation. Losing Sam has made me realize that I've met very few people in my life that have that special kind of impact on everyone and anything they touch. It's an extremely rare combination of being incredibly talented, incredibly generous, incredibly zealous, and incredibly enthusiastic -- but I'm sure there are other (incredible) ingredients to Sam that set him apart even further.
Sam touched me personally in a number of ways, a couple of examples which I'd like to share. When my son, Kiva, was considering attending UTS with some trepidation, Suzanne and I asked Sam if he could speak with him and share his own UTS experience. Sam's impact on Kiva was immediately profound, and witnessing Sam's passion and enthusiasm about the place changed his entire outlook on the prospect -- and hearing it from a guy that was infinitely cooler than his parents will ever be didn't hurt either. Kiva attended the school, and it was as wonderful as Sam said it would be. Although their paths would cross only occasionally over the next 6 years, Kiva was forever touched by Sam, and is feeling the same kind of hole the rest of us are. How precious are those that can affect us so deeply in such short a time. My other anecdote surrounded a decision I had to make as a committee chair on a particularly contentious issue. From his sabbatical in California, I received an email from Sam that meant so much to me. He sensed from afar how difficult the decision was for me, and through his incredibly kind and supportive words, lifted me from a state of feeling really discouraged to feeling like I'd done really well. I'll cherish his empathy, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity forever.
As I struggle forward with this, one thing is becoming very clear to me. And that is how incredibly fortunate I've been to have crossed paths with Sam. He's set an inspiring example for me of how to be a scientist, a supervisor, a teacher, a husband and father, and perhaps most of all, how to touch the lives of those around us. That inspiration and that example I'll carry with me forever.
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.
If you would like to add an article to this blog please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you may leave a comment on any article. (Comments are moderated: please bear in mind that this is a place to remember Sam and to help celebrate his life.)
There is also an album of photographs for which contributions are welcome. Instructions on how to contribute appear next to album.