Friday, August 9, 2019

Tribute to Godfried by Greg Aloupis

Υστεροφημία (Ysterofimia). This is a word that describes one of the greatest desires of ancient Greeks. To be remembered well, eternally.  I have no idea if Godfried cared about this, but it is a word that leaped to mind when thinking about him in recent days. Godfried’s way of life and influence on all of us will be remembered and missed. In this sense, he will remain immortal. 

When I started my MS degree, I had only taken a few basic courses in CS, and planned on jumping into the field of mobile robotics, coming from my physics undergrad background. In the first week of my first semester I shopped around for courses, attending as many as possible. One of those was the mysterious Computational Geometry, taught by Godfried. I was instantly hooked.  I loved the material, the teaching style, the enthusiasm that Godfried had. By the end of the week I knew that I wanted to focus on his course. His homework problems were incredibly fun, and many were quite difficult.  I recall walking up to Godfried at the end of a lecture when the first assignment was due. I shyly asked him what the solution was for a particular problem that I couldn’t solve, hinting that I was a bit concerned. He smiled and said not to worry, nobody ever solves that one. 

By the end of the semester I couldn’t wait to take Godfried’s Pattern Recognition course, which included a project that eventually turned into my MS thesis.  After that first year, when I officially became Godfried’s advisee, a whole new world opened up for me.  Through Godfried I got to know the McGill theory group, and became part of the Bellairs crowd.  I had no idea that academia could be so much fun, both in terms of research and socially.  The lunches at McGill were often the highlight of my day, listening to hilarious and wild stories by Godfried, David and Luc.  So were the evenings at Bellairs, when we would all sit together under a tree, Godfried with his cigar and glass of port.  In general, wherever we went, Godfried’s circle of friends always created an exceptional environment, on the convex hull, as he would say.  So I have often thought about how lucky I am to have met him, to have followed this random path that led to meeting so many lifelong friends and to great adventures.  

Godfried’s lecture style directly influenced mine. Students often ask why I handwrite my course notes, and I inevitably pause to describe Godfried’s projector, with all his overlapping slides taped together in a way so that he could flip slides over from all four directions and make shapes ``grow” and ``move”.  Godfried taught in a way that kept you on your toes the entire time, not only because of his visuals but because he would let us explore incorrect ideas for ages until we discovered that something was wrong. I now do this in my own C.G. course, and it makes me happy to tell students that this was how I learned from Godfried, back in the day. 

Throughout my MS and PhD, Godfried gave me an ideal mix of support, encouragement, and independence. I have always been thankful for this, and for the chats that we have had about non-academic matters, both during that time and the many years that followed. He has given me advice that I have followed daily. I can’t imagine how life would have been without his influence, nor do I want to. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Godfried, I owe so much to you. Thank you for your friendship.