I met Sam for the first time when he was visiting Gatsby in 2005. I remember the first email he sent me at the time was a link to some streaming radio station of progressive trance techno music that he was listening to while coding for his NIPS paper. I had never done any machine learning before, but he is the one who made it sound like so much fun that I ended up getting all excited and landing in Yann's lab at NYU. Perhaps if he had talked about marine biology that's what I would do today.
As so many others have said, Sam was a person you would instantly feel drawn to and want to be close to. His enthusiasm, brilliance and tireless energy had this very unique quality that it would always renew everyone else's. He was not content with shining, he had to shine on everybody with his incredible generosity and uncanny gift for communication that felt like witchcraft.
I was so thrilled when he decided to come to NYU. I couldn't believe how lucky we were, that he was going to be sitting right there every day, in what was then my office.
Last week at the lab meeting, while everybody else was sleepily waiting for latecomers to show up, he was as buoyant as ever and already at the whiteboard, presenting a cute 5-minute trick as an 'incentive for people to show up on time'. He turned every moment into an opportunity to learn and get excited about something.
Sam, for so many of us you were a model, a hero, an inspiration, and an unforgettable presence. You made people optimistic and enthusiastic. Thank you for gracing our lives and being who you were.
I wish we had had more time.
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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