Delivered at his Funeral on November 5, 2014 by Professor Kathryn Laskey, Systems Engineering and Operations Research at George Mason University
The world is emptier than it was a week ago. We have lost a leader, a pioneer, an institution builder, a writer, an educator – a man who, in the words of SEOR Department Chair Ariela Sofer, “crammed several lifetimes of achievements in the course of his career.” We have also lost a friend, a colleague, a husband, a father, a grandfather.
It is impossible to think of Andy without calling to mind his long list of professional achievements. Since last Friday, I cannot tell you how many times the word “luminary” has come up. Luminary: a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere. Yes, that’s Andy. But for me, the word “luminary” also connotes an unapproachable figure, a light shining from afar. And that most assuredly does not describe Andy.
When I came to George Mason in 1990 as a young, inexperienced faculty member, I was a little unsure about how it would be, meeting this luminary in person. I need not have worried. Right from the beginning, Andy accepted me as an equal and a peer. He put me at ease. He drew me into engaging, challenging, and always respectful conversations on subjects for which we shared a passion: decision support, systems engineering, engineering education. He encouraged dissent and disagreement, having the strength of character and self- assurance to acknowledge without defensiveness or rancor when someone else had a better answer than he did. Indeed, he typically reacted with delight at learning something new. Especially important for me, Andy always understood and respected my commitment to family, and supported me in carving out time for my young children. I learned from watching Andy interact with colleagues and students that he is the kind of luminary who looks not to outshine those around him, but to spark everyone’s lights so we all shine more brightly together than we would individually. Nothing delighted Andy more than the success of his students, and he worked tirelessly to help them succeed.
Through the years we worked together, Andy’s passion for education was always evident. Andy could have risen to the top of whatever field he chose. He chose to be an educator, and he chose systems engineering as the field in which to make his mark. He understood clearly that the problems of the future are systems problems, and our quality of life depends on effective functioning of the systems around us. His faith was palpable in the power of systems thinking to transform our world. He made it his life’s work to share his vision and to inspire others with his faith. He strove to educate the next generation of engineers as systems thinkers – both because he truly wanted the best for his students as individual human beings, and because he wanted the brightest future for humanity as a whole.
Although the world is emptier than it was a week ago, the light of this luminary will continue to shine. It will shine in the institutions he built and in the works he authored – but most important, it will shine in the lives he touched and in the lights he sparked in his friends, family, colleagues and students. I am grateful to have been touched by his light, and I will strive to let that light shine on through me.