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Honouring the Canadian Global Computing Pioneer and Icon, Kelly Gotlieb!

By Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., ITCP

I received an invitation in October to a special ceremony at the University of Victoria, where Dr. Calvin Gotlieb, is receiving his Honorary Degree on November 10 2011.

I expressed my regrets to the university and to Kelly that I am unable to attend since I am chairing long-planned sessions in New York during that week.

I am sorry that I am unable to be there, so I am writing this tribute to this great Canadian and aligned with my keynote that I gave in March celebrating Kelly’s 90th birthday with over 200 guests at the University of Toronto.

Kelly is a computing pioneer, whose innovations and accomplishments helped lay the foundation for a worldwide industry, educational stream and profession. His contributions are so profound and their impact so diverse and in so many areas that the lasting value cannot be comprehended.

For the Canadian Information Processing Society or CIPS inspired by our founder Kelly Gotlieb. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated "Your efforts have made positive and lasting contributions to Canada's economic growth and competitiveness." This all due to Kelly!

We have Dr. Mike Williams, past President of the IEEE-CS, where in his over 70 pages of transcript; he documents Kelly contributions since the 1940’s.

I did a media search today which yielded over 100 pages appearing in many publications worldwide where Kelly’s work is recognized or he is interviewed.

I did an interview with Maria Klawe and I asked her to share a story or two in celebration of Kelly’s 90th from her nearly 35 years of knowing Kelly.Maria is the past Dean at Princeton, college president of HMC, on the Microsoft board of directors and recently nominated to the Broadcom board. She recounted how she was a graduate student at U of T and Kelly was 57 and the Father of Computing. She is now 60, so older than Kelly at that time, and Kelly continues to be the Father of Computing through his ongoing work. She also noted his considerable contributions as Chair and Co-chair of the ACM Awards Committee, and his work on the Turing Award.


I will now speak to my personal interaction with Kelly.

I have a continuing series of interviews with Kelly—numbering over ten now. I am often asked, how did these interviews start? I sent a note to Kelly to see if he would consent to being interviewed. Kelly quickly replied demonstrating his inclusiveness, openness, and willingness to share.

In those interviews, I am asked which is the one, where I receive the most feedback. It’s the one about his family; there is high regard, respect, and recognition for Kelly but Kelly demonstrates this high regard, respect, and recognition for his family; this very much Illustrating Kelly’s passion, caring and humanity.

I first met Kelly at the CIPS’ 50th anniversary where the seas of IT professionals parted in a demonstration of the high, regard, respect and recognition for Kelly—the three Rs’.


Finally, let me now share three stories about Kelly.


Story 1:

Kelly has chaired or co-chaired the ACM Awards Committee for over two decades. This therefore excludes Kelly from receiving some of computing's highest honours. It is clear that Kelly would have received ACM's Turing Award, the Nobel Prize of Computing, if he didn't serve in this self-less way, and for so many years. His life is about giving and to so many.


Story 2:

Vint Cerf is often credited with creating the internet and has received many honours for his work, including the Turing Award ( Kelly, who continued teaching into his 80s', needed a speaker and at his request Vint Cerf flew in to speak to his students and spent significant time with them, including coaching his graduate students on their work. Vint was able to provide meaningful and constructive insights for all of the grad students to improve their diverse work, a measure of the abilities of Vint to have intimate in-depth knowledge in so many areas of research. However this story also illustrates the high regard that Kelly is held by the world's best scientists where Vint would make this time available for Kelly and his students.


Story 3:

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world's largest and only science fair where pre-collegiate finalists from over 50 countries and regions showcase their innovative research. If you ever wondered what happens when students enter a science fair, ultimately the winners from each country and region end up at the ISEF. The work is world class. Kelly has been judging at the ISEF more than once and it is exhausting work looking intimately at the research performed by these young scientists. This speaks to Kelly's commitment to education and his contribution as a mentor for computing science innovation. In 2010, due to a last minute shortage, Kelly stepped up to judge again at 89. The hours are very long and work intensive. However, his insightful analysis, questions to the students, and 70+ years of experience proved invaluable. I served as head ACM special awards ISEF judge and having Kelly as co-judge was truly inspiring, as he is an amazing visionary leader--you can imagine the good fortune of the students to have a computing pioneer and iconic figure encouraging them to continue their research. Moreover, Kelly was the first to arrive, the last to leave. Kelly asked the most insightful questions of the finalists and provided kind guidance back and wanted to ensure that all students received positive guidance and congratulations for their work. And he provided an on the spot algorithm for ranking the finalists to determine the winners, reducing a days’ work into a little more than an hour.


I provide my congratulations to Kelly on receiving this latest honour from the University of Victoria.

Very well deserved for a fine Canadian and “Global” Pioneer!


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