Thomas Sterling Eulogizes Rich Brueckner, Ann Redelfs, Steve Tuecke, Lucy Nowell: 4 Leaders Lost to the HPC Community

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At his annual keynote address closing out the ISC 2020 conference, Thomas Sterling, Professor of Intelligent Systems Engineering at the University of Indiana, eulogized four members of the HPC community who died over the past year. Here are excerpts from his remarks:

It’s my sad duty to, but certainly a responsibility, to note some of our colleagues who have passed away, people who have contributed throughout much or all of their careers to our field.

We’re in a virtual world, so this is not so obvious over this week, but if we were all in Frankfort together, wandering the halls, attending the meetings and the meeting rooms and the various parties taking place, or just meeting for drinks at the Marriott and equivalent, you would sense something was missing, the sort of absence in your peripheral vision, something that was always constant, and it’s not. And that’s our friend and colleague, Rich Brueckner, who only within the last few weeks passed away at too early an age. Rich is best known for running the information source insideHPC and, perhaps less so, he also started insideBIGDATA that covers a slightly different area. Rich had many positions within the field, he was very knowledgeable. He worked with Cray, he worked at SGI, he worked at Sun Microsystems, among other things.

But over 10 years ago, his true interest, his true love, was communicating, bringing information together and then disseminating it in a more meaningful way. If you had to describe Rich, you would use the same phrase: he was the guy in the red hat, a wonderful act of branding. And sadly, that red hat is no longer there.

I took a few pictures… Rich was a friend to so many people in the field. He was perhaps the point in which we all share a common individual personality… The lower right is this is how I think of Rich almost always when he and I were talking, he was holding a microphone in my face. But there were many times when you could just interact with him casually sitting at a table and chairs. And he was never noisy. He had an endearing laugh, never dominated, but he influenced the path of conversations. And he added to the richness of our field…

So, it is sad that we will not see him again but we will continue to experience the impact he had on us over the last decade or more.

Some of you will know Ann Redelfs – and again, an early passing.  Ann was a polymath. She had many interests and was educated in a number of different fields in the natural sciences, her public affairs ability to communicate – and that included helping to organize – and she did many things throughout the community. She worked at the San Diego Supercomputer Center for some years with Fran Berman at the University of California, San Diego. She served as Deputy Director of the Cornell Theory Center in Ithaca, New York. She engaged with Tabor Communications, including HPCwire, and made other contributions as well.

She was a strong advocate and a key player in women’s and minority rights in science, in STEM, and she provided true leadership In the National Science Foundation’s National Partnership for Computational Infrastructure. Again, we benefit more than we will remember her many contributions because her impact will go on indefinitely. She has helped our field mature in many different ways.

Steve Tuecke – I have to be honest, my path never crossed with Steve’s, and this is really surprising. He spent 10 years at Argonne National Lab, and, and he was one of the three founders of Globus grid computing. He was a system software architect, both at Argonne and at the University of Chicago and at Univa as the CEO and the chief technical officer as well. He was recognized at a very early age by MIT Technology Review as one of the top innovators under 35, and also by Infoworld magazine as one of the top 10 innovators of 2003.

I am told he was a delight to work with. He was energetic, always smiling, great sense of humor, but a commitment and a conviction and a level of effort rarely equaled by others in the development of useful software environments and tools that has expanded the Globus community …

For me, personally this, this is sad. I only just learned within the last few days that Lucy Nowell passed away. Now for those of you in the U.S. and involved in HPC, you knew Lucy.  She was a person of singular value in our field. And she exhibited a personality that is remembered for her professionalism, really strong professionalism, and her passion for not just the field, but for the value of the field, and her ultimate integrity. You couldn’t fool Lucy.

I had the pleasure of interacting with her over a number of years before her retirement. She was a program manager at the Department of Energy’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research program, and I interacted with her frequently in that regard. Prior to that, she was at the Office of Cyberinfrastructure at the National Science Foundation, and yet before that, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in eastern Washington state, she served in the Department of Defense as a program manager and earlier than that, she was a professor at Lynchburg College in in Virginia, a professor of computer science.

But if you knew her well you knew that her first love was theater. She was engaged in theater at an early age…and she brought a very rich perspective, not a single dimensional perspective but a rich perspective. And she had a wonderful sense of humor, and a laugh that I can still remember. Lucy we will miss you.