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 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.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

from Liz Boer

The last two times I saw Sam were, I believe, very important moments in his life. Sam and Meredith came to our house in May, 2008. Sam had told me nothing beforehand by email, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see the characteristic shape of Meredith's tummy which could only mean one thing! “We're pregnant” as Sam liked to say, “with identical twin girls” added Meredith. From those long talks late at night in grad school, I knew that Sam was on his way to realizing one of his most cherished life goals, to become a father.

Sam and Meredith stopped by my parent's house in Victoria, BC, when we were visiting, in the summer of 2006. They had just finished hiking the West Coast Trail, and had had a wonderful time. Many of the pictures from that trip made their way to their wedding web site. Meredith seemed such a perfect match for Sam, and they both seemed so fulfilled and full of hopes and dreams for their future life together.

Sam was instrumental in organizing the best wedding present I received. My wedding was to take place in Europe, where I had just moved, and I was bemoaning the fact that many of my North American friends were not going to come, including Meagan, one of my best friends from undergrad. Not long before the wedding I received an email from Sam, asking if he could bring someone he had just met, who “curiously” was also named Meagan. I thought nothing of this coincidence and burst into tears of joy when I picked them up at the train station.

I knew Sam best when we were both in grad school. We are not in the same field, so I was only indirectly aware of his academic brilliance. Besides being one of my closest friends, he was my coach; I taped an email from him to my shelf so that I would see it every time I looked up from my desk when studying. I have a T-shirt from him with the “words of wisdom” of the poster on his wall. I have reproduced both below.

It has “already” been over three months since one earthquake shook Haiti and another shook the world of Sam's family and friends. I still think of Sam (and Meredith, Aya and Orli) often. Sam will be remembered, for so many great reasons, by so many people, for a long long time to come.

I say never let go, never rest, never stop, never give in, never show fear, never tire. Cleaner, faster, better than everybody else, more practice, later nights, earlier mornings. Only the mediocre are always at their best. Push yourself. Keep fire in your eyes and fire in your heart and always do what you think is the right thing.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

from Li Chang

Sam went on to do many great things, in research, engineering, California, London, Toronto, New York, Google. But for me, Sam was my old schoolmate from university. Sam was one of the University of Toronto Engineering Science class of 9T4. Sam was also a member of the New College residence, where I met him. Sam was in engineering science, and I was in computer engineering, so we didn't share any classes together, but we shared friends and residence time together. I remember Sam as smart and funny, always the center of conversation, but never condescending to a quiet person like me. Here are some of my memories of Sam.

Sam went to the famous high school (University of Toronto School) along with several of our other friends. For a while Sam was dating an engineering girl Rina, so I'd see him on the girls' side of the residence. But more often, I'd see him when I went over to the guys' side. We would congregate in someone's room, talking about anything, everything, for hours. Some of us huddled on the tiny bed, some spread out on the floor, some sat on the desk. These long talks fascinated me. They opened my mind to so many things I had never heard about.

One day, Sam talked about an experiment he did in high school. He wanted to know if the mind failed earlier than the body. He and 2 high school friends stayed up for 3 days with no sleep; they talked, did quizzes and rode a stationary bicycle. They were ok on day 1 and 2, but by day 3, they could still pedal the bike, but the blur coming out of their mouths no longer made sense. Sam always had an inquisitive mind.

I last saw Sam in 2004 at a small reunion. He looked the same. Ten years hadn't changed him a bit. The photo on this memorial site was taken at our reunion, very familiar and shocking when I saw it. At the time, he was consulting for Google, and very proud of it. I have always liked Sam.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

from Amy Ma

To the family of Sam Roweis, you have my sincerest condolences. Please be gentle with yourselves as you heal this loss and grieve and mourn the fact that we are all bereft of a wonderful person.

I was a fellow Shad-ite in exactly the same program as Sam (Waterloo 1989). I was shocked and saddened to learn of his unexpected passing through the Shad Valley website.

I have wonderful memories of Sam from that summer. His sense of humour was unique, and his intellect dazzled us all. He was a brilliant and original thinker who blazed his own path. He was older than his years in maturity, and had a compassionate side that was rare for people of our age group. Though I didn't keep in touch with him after our 4 weeks together in the halls of Conrad Grebel and the UW campus, I am not surprised that he led an unparalleled career in academia before his unfortunate and untimely death.

As a parent, my heart goes out to his twin daughters, and I hope that they and their mother will be surrounded by much love, courage and support as they carry on without their beloved Sam. I cannot imagine what Sam's wife must be going through, but I hope that the memories that I and many others share of Sam will be of some comfort. That he lives on in our collective memories. To know that we will always remember him, and in that respect we keep a bit of him alive.

Amy Ma
89W Shad participant
now a stay-at-home mom of 3 somewhere in Montreal, Quebec, Canada