TITLE: The Passing of a Friend
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: November 28, 2005 12:01 PM
When I first attended
I was a rank novice with patterns. But like most
everyone else, I had read
-- 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.
Within a couple of years, John asked me to chair
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
Then a couple of years later, John approached
me with another request: to chair the
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
I owed much of its success to John's encouragement
and support. When I floated the idea of asking
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
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.