This page is in memory of Calvin C. "Kelly" Gotlieb, inaugural chair (1964-68) of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. Kelly passed away on October 16, 2016 at age 95.
Through his vision, inspiration, and leadership, Kelly played a fundamental role in bringing Canadians into the modern age of computing.
Lovingly remembered by his family, friends and colleagues, he will never be forgotten for his influence on computer science education and research, and the Information Technology profession in Canada.
If you would like to post your memories and words of support to this page, please submit your remembrance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memorial donations may be made to the C.C. (Kelly) Gotlieb Graduate Fellowship in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto.
November 21, 2016
Kelly Gotlieb was a giant of a man. I took several courses with Kelly but only began to see his insight, global view, contributions, and stature in his Computers and Society course in my third year. He mentored me, a small town boy at a big school, not only introducing me to compelling ideas and people but in doing so making me think I might just be able to contribute. I experienced, first hand, Kelly’s visions, wisdom, and compassion as he mentored me through my PhD. We kept in touch with Christmas/Hanukkah cards until his passing. Kelly’s drive to see beyond the technical led me to membership on national and international commissions, such as the US Academy of Science. I now see that he mentored generations of aspiring Canadians like me since 1948. I have yet to meet his match.
Michael L. Brodie
Computer and Artificial Intelligence Lab, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
November 15, 2016
Memory of sailing with Kelly Gotlieb
In the spring of 1976 Kelly dropped in to my office and suggested that we join a week of sail boat racing camp at Lake Couchiching. The boats supplied would be Lasers: hot single-handed racing class boats. (Lasers regularly participate in one of the sail boat racing medal events in the Olympic Games.) This took me by surprise. I had racing experience in larger keel boats, but nothing like a Laser.
He eventually convinced me to attend, and in fact we had a very enjoyable week. We were by far the oldest people there, but we were able to hold our own. Kelly later bought a keel boat for himself, and became a prominent member of the National Yacht Club.
Professor, Department of Computer Science
November 13, 2016
I’m honoured to join all those who have written in celebrating Kelly Gotlieb and his foundational contributions to computing in Canada. His open, sharp mind and generous spirit have evidently enriched so many of us personally and collectively. I’m pleased to take this opportunity to reflect on the entanglements of (auto)biography and technology, revealing a side of Kelly’s extraordinary life that has meant so much to me as well as to the wider appreciation of the social significance of computing in contemporary life.
I first met Kelly in 1979, in unremarkable circumstances, but our brief encounter proved a pivotal moment in my life. It was in Vancouver at a meeting of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), the professional association Kelly had helped found over 20 years before. Kelly had just given the after dinner talk and was packing up his materials at the podium. I saw my moment and approached to enquire about the possibilities of pursuing a doctorate with him, albeit an unconventional one at the time - I wanted to do PhD research within CS on the societal implications of computing. I had several years earlier obtained a CS Masters degree at UBC. Through my supervisor, Frieder Nake, and Abbe Mowshowitz, both of whom knew Kelly from their time teaching CS at UofT, I got interested in the social and political dimensions of computing. I had also gotten to meet and explored various routes to doctoral studies with other leading computer scientists who had taken a turn to the social and political – Joseph Weizenbaum at MIT and Rob Kling at UC Irvine in particular - who also knew Kelly well, but none had panned out. However, several encouraged me to consider Kelly as a prospective supervisor. His seminal book with Alan Borodin, Social Issues in Computing (1974), which addressed many of the issues that I was concerned with, notably privacy and employment issues, helped reassure me. (I only later came to know about Kelly’s long, active engagement in Canada as well as internationally with the social and economic policy aspects of computerization.)
So feeling it was my last chance, I took the opportunity of Kelly’s visit to Vancouver to see him in person and make my pitch. We had never met, but his reaction was immediate and positive, and life-changing for me. After sketching what I had in mind, I recall Kelly pausing briefly and saying something like “I think the time has now come when this kind of research can be done in Computer Science.” In a moment of quick, but thoughtful judgment – a trait that I subsequently came to see as one of his great strengths – Kelly had opened the door for me, and he never wavered in his support.
During my doctoral studies I went to meet Kelly weekly. This meant navigating past Kelly’s sternly protective but ultimately warm-hearted gatekeeper Margaret Chepely. Once in his office, Kelly was unfailingly attentive and encouraging. Guiding me through the various institutional passage points and gently nudging me in this direction or that, he left me to set my own overall research agenda. I have tried to follow this model in my own supervision, but can’t say I ever achieved his grace and sure-footedness.
The last time I saw Kelly was at my own retirement party in Fall 2015. It is a rare honour to have one’s supervisor come to such an event and offer such generous remarks. It is a cherished memory. While, sadly, I cannot join Kelly’s memorial celebrations in person, I will be very much there in spirit.
Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Information
November 11, 2016
Kelly was a most remarkable individual, a visionary in the emerging world of Computer Science which he helped define from its beginning, through his early nurturing in computing in Canada: his participation in UTEC University of Toronto's first home-grown computer development in the late 1940s; his critical role in the acquisition of Canada's first (and North America's nearly first) commercial computer, a Manchester-designed Ferranti computer called FERUT.
I first met Kelly formally in a graduate course on numerical and computer methodology which he ran in 1956 in association with Pat Hume and Beatrice Worsley. I had taken this course as an extra during my EE master's program under the direction of James M. Ham on the topic of human-operators of control systems. This program involved the use of special-purpose vacuum tube-digital hardware, and Ham had encouraged me to learn as much about computing as was available. I did well in the course and shared an IBM Award with Michael Rochester (subsequently Professor Emeritus, Memorial University). Meanwhile, Kelly yearning to continue U of T's computer hardware development had made a cooperative pact with the University of Illinois, famous at the time for ORDVAC and Illiac for the development of a new high-speed computer (subsequently called Illiac II, of which I became the Chief Engineer in 1961). The arrangement was to be that U of T provided manpower, while U of I provided resources and space at Urbana, Illinois. It seems that Kelly while having direct access to mathematicians and physicists, lacked engineering contacts until I appeared in his class. Thus, near the end of the course and my impending graduation, Kelly approached me to offer a job in this new project at U of I which I immediately accepted. My role was as a high-speed-transistor circuit designer in a large research group to which many other Canadians periodically participated, including Velvel Kahan (then a U of T PhD student in math) and Bob McKay (U of T Professor of Physics, later to become by PhD advisor). Don Gillies with a PhD under Von Neumann from Princeton, was a renowned Canadian member of the U of I team.
On one of my periodic visits back to U of T, to discuss project progress, in 1958 Kelly asked if I hoped to continue a career in university research. I recall that I said I liked what I was doing and would like to continue for the forseeable future. He then revealed a sort of a characteristic insight, saying that in the future that to work at university will require a PhD, else success would be challenging. He went on to say that if I wished to get a PhD, that he would pay half my salary until it was complete! After some discussion, we decided with my background in Engineering Physics (now Engineering Science) that I could qualify for many different PhD programs, but that our research colleague Bob McKay might be very interested in this possibility. Thus, I began my PhD in Physics in 1958, graduating in 1960, highly motivated by the need to save Kelly some money!
As time passed, with my return to U of T in 1965 as an Associate Professor with tenure in both EE and CS, teaching circuit design and computing architecture, Kelly and I continued to interact. I recall another insight that he shared with me upon my retirement in 1997: "You know Ken, you like me, will have a great deal of difficulty in explaining our retirement to friends and colleagues: I endured this for some time until I found an explanation. What I became used to saying was: my salary has retired, but work continues on!".
With fondest of remembrances,
Kenneth C. Smith
Professor Emeritus, ECE
November 11, 2016
It was my great privilege to represent DCS when we held a dinner to honour Kelly on his 90th birthday. What an event! It is interesting to reflect on what makes a great department. A key ingredient is a history of greatness. Such a history attracts the calibre of people needed to keep that greatness going, and thus builds on itself.
At DCS much of that history can be traced back to Kelly. And so in many ways we at DCS owe Kelly a huge debt of gratitude for laying the foundation of what we are today. A life well lived, a huge and lasting legacy, and an inspiration to us all.
Professor, Department of Computer Science
November 5, 2016
It’s impossible to convey how privileged I feel to have known Kelly, and to be (along with my wife Lyndsay Downs) a graduate of the amazing program that Kelly, Tom and Pat launched on such a remarkable trajectory.
I last saw Kelly at the DCS50 celebration, looking and acting at least 25 years younger than his numerical age. What an amazing person, and what an amazing life.
Professor, University of Washington
November 3, 2016
The last of the Big Three has left us. Tom Hull, Pat Hume, and Kelly Gotlieb created this department, and more importantly its culture of consensus, harmony and respect while constantly striving for excellence. Each had crucial parts to play. Kelly put us on the map through big ideas built on big infrastructure. He demonstrated through example that we could think big--bigger than our aw shucks Canadian approach would otherwise have allowed. And we did. As a younger academic, I often sought his advice, and as department chair, my door always opened to him at a moment's notice. I remember that he sadly confided in me how much he missed his beloved wife, Phyllis. He was an avid story-teller who relished surprise endings. Even his death was a surprise to me: I thought he would live forever. His influence surely will. What a great man!
Professor, Department of Computer Science
October 31, 2016
Over my term as department chair, I had the chance to interact with Kelly often. He was an incredibly devoted and committed citizen in our department, long after his retirement. He would often bring ideas to me, he was a regular at all our events, and he always put a smile on my face with his positive attitude.
Perhaps my fondest memory of Kelly was the honour I had as Chair to attend, in Calgary in 2015, the ceremony at which Kelly received an inaugural Canadian Association of Computer Science (CACS/AIC) Lifetime Achievement Award. He was so gracious in his acceptance speech, and rather than speak of his many achievements, he spoke of his appreciation of his colleagues and his community. We stayed in the same hotel, and had dinner together, over which he entertained me with wonderful stories about his career and his family. It's not every day that you have dinner with someone who rubbed elbows with Alan Turing.
I will sincerely miss Kelly. Nobody in this great department would be here were it not for Kelly's vision. But for me, it's much more than that. His warmth, kindness, generosity, and collegiality set an example for those that helped build our department, and they've carried that torch high ever since. We're all incredibly lucky to have crossed paths with Kelly. What a wonderful life he had!
Professor, Department of Computer Science
October 26, 2016
I took a course from Kelly Gotlieb in the fall of 1971, my first term in Canada. Although I had some language difficulties and did not quite follow him, I loved his style of teaching. His love of the subject, enthusiasm and intellectual ability was evident in every lecture. As mentioned by John DiMarco, his enthusiasm was infectious. I signed up for another course taught by Kelly in my second term at UofT. Each student was required to write a research paper and give a class presentation. I noticed that he often closed his eyes during presentations and it appeared that he may be napping. However the second the speaker missed a point or made a mistake, Kelly bombarded the speaker with questions. He did not miss a beat.
In April of 1972 he invited the class to his house. He asked what my plans were for my PhD and whether I had selected a supervisor. Upon hearing from me that based on my fall performance I am rejected at UofT, he said “ how could they base your admission on your fall performance, they should base it on your winter performance”. He then promised to talk to the admissions committee. Whenever I told this story to others in his presence, he finished my sentence by saying “and the rest is history”. The last time he said this was Spring 2016. I am just one of thousands of students he inspired.
He followed my career with keenness and support. Although driving to York University campus was a big challenge for him, in 2006 he accepted York University’s President's invitation to a convocation in which I received a recognition. I could not contain my joy when I saw him. I was more honored that he came than the recognition I received. At age 85 he impressed my family with his sharp mind, charm, humor and kindness.
I liked him like a father and am indebted to him for his support. He shall be missed.
University Professor Emeritus
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Lassonde School of Engineering
October 26, 2016
I had the great privilege of knowing Kelly. He was a terrific person: brilliant, kind, and humble. He was always willing to make time for people. He was a great thinker: his insights, particularly in the area of computing and society, were highly influential. I never fully realized how influential he was until we, here at the Department of Computer Science, created a blog , in honour of the 40th anniversary of Social Issues in Computing, the seminal textbook he and Allan Borodin wrote in 1973 in the area of computers and society. I served as editor of the blog, and solicited contributions from the top thinkers in the field. So many of them responded, explaining to me how influential his ideas had been to them, and the blog was filled with insightful articles building in various ways upon the foundation that he and Allan had laid so many years before. I interviewed Kelly for the blog, and he was terrific: even in his nineties, he was full of insights. His mind active and enthusiastic, he was making cogent observations on the latest technologies, ranging from self-driving cars to automated medical diagnosis and treatment.
To me, Kelly epitomized the truth about effective teaching that is all too often missed: teaching is not just about information, teaching is about inspiration. Kelly was a truly inspiring teacher and thinker. He was completely authentic in everything he did, he was full of enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm was infectious. Conversations with Kelly so often left me energized and inspired, thinking along new directions of thought that something he said had triggered, or leaping past obstacles that had previously seems insurmountable. That is true teaching. Information without inspiration is simply fodder for forgetfulness, but teaching that inspires leads to new insights, integration of ideas, genuine understanding, and a better, clearer and sharper window on the world. Kelly inspired so many people for so many years. We are truly blessed that he was among us. He will be remembered.
Department of Computer Science
October 25, 2016
Kelly was a mentor to the region, country, and world and always led by fine example. I feel his influence every day in my thoughts, actions – growing in resonance. He touched all of us on so many levels and I will sorely miss him.
October 24, 2016
I was so deeply saddened to hear the news about Kelly's passing. Kelly was the last of the original "old guard" in the Department of Computer Science. He was a visionary, a leader, a scholar, a family man, and a gentleman who always had the time to patiently explain to me the intricacies and nuances of the world of computer science. Or take me down memory lane to give me a peek into what the early historic days of computer science were like. And how our department evolved into what it is today. The stories were fascinating and it was a thrill to listen to him chronicle his involvement in establishing our department and the development of computer science throughout the world.
It was a special honour and privilege for me to have known Kelly and to have been able to celebrate his achievements at his 90th birthday celebration, at the DCS 50th anniversary celebrations, and at his 95th birthday lunch with the past DCS Chairs. I will miss him and all his fascinating stories of the "good old" days!
Department of Computer Science
October 17, 2016
I regret to announce the sad news that Prof. Kelly Gotlieb, a founding member of our department and its inaugural chair, passed away yesterday. Kelly had an outsized impact on our department and discipline, and will be deeply missed.
Chair, Department of Computer Science