TITLE: The Passing of a Friend AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 28, 2005 12:01 PM DESC: ----- BODY: When I first attended PLoP, I was a rank novice with patterns. But like most everyone else, I had read Design Patterns -- or at least put it on my bookshelf, like everyone else -- and was just a bit in awe of the Gang of Four. Pretty soon I learned that Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides were two of the nicest and most helpful people I around. I also met Erich Gamma a time or two and found him to be a good guy, though I never interacted all that much with him. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Richard Helm. John Vlissides Within a couple of years, John asked me to chair PLoP 2000. I like to have a decent understanding of something like this before I get started, and John sat with me to patiently answer questions and teach me some software patterns history. He also gave me a lot of encouragement. The conference turned out well. Then a couple of years later, John approached me with another request: to chair the Educators Symposium at OOPSLA 2004. Again, I had been attending OOPSLA and the Educators Symposium for a few years, even helping on a few symposium committees, but I had never considered taking on the chair, which seemed like much more work and responsibility. Again, John offered me a lot of encouragement and offered to help me in any way he could in his capacity as conference chair -- including giving me his complimentary registration to OOPSLA 2003, so that I could attend the 2004 kick-off planning meeting and begin working with my colleagues to assemble the next year's program. 2003 was a tight money year for my department and me, and John's kindness made it possible for me to attend. The 2004 Educators Symposium went pretty well, I think we can say. I've certainly talked about it enough here, beginning with this entry. I owed much of its success to John's encouragement and support. When I floated the idea of asking Alan Kay to keynote at the symposium, John said, "Dream big. I'll bet you can do it." Then, when Alan won the Turing Award, John worked to bring the Turing Award lecture to OOPSLA -- but all the while protecting my "coup" at having persuaded Alan to speak at OOPSLA 2004 in the first place. I'd've been happy to have Alan speak at OOPSLA under any circumstances, but I appreciated how John just assumed that I deserved some attention for my efforts and that, under his care, I would receive it. John was always like that. He was a quiet leader, a person who treated each person with dignity and respect and who, as a result, could make things happen through the team he built. He was also always a very good writer and scholar. The articles that ended up in his Pattern Hatching went a long way toward making design patterns more accessible to folks who had been a bit swamped by the GoF book. They also taught us a bit about how a good programmer thinks when he writes code. I am filled with a deep sadness to know that John died at his home on Thanksgiving day, after more than a year and a half battling a brain tumor. He battled silently, with strength and courage derived from his abiding faith in God. My prayers are with his family, especially his wife and children. As someone said in an announcement of John's death, the essence of John's greatness lay not in his technical accomplishments but in his humanity. He was a friend, a teacher, a colleague, and a mentor to everyone with whom he came into contact. He made everyone around him a better scholar and a better person. Though I never did anything to deserve it, John was a friend and a mentor to me. I will miss him. -----