R.L. "Bob" Morgan
10/29/1954 ~ 7/12/2012
I count myself among the many colleagues and friends around the world who are mourning the loss of R. L. “Bob” Morgan, after his passing on July 12 during cancer treatment at UW Medical Center. He was undergoing a procedure that he knew was high risk, and my heart goes out to anyone who has to make a decision like that. Both professionally and personally, he understood that life's difficult choices are "all about risk management."
In the past few months, several other colleagues important in my life have passed on, but they were all older than me. Bob left us way too soon, and he left enormous shoes to fill. Those who have worked with Bob know the enormity of his contributions, that he is irreplaceable, and that his expertise just happens to be in the field upon which the future of IT rests.
In 1998 I offered Bob a job in my organization at the University of Washington, thus making him --like myself-- a California expatriate. I knew Bob would be a great addition, but I didn't know at the time that hiring him would be one of the best things I ever did for UW. As part of my due diligence in the hiring process, I did check references. One of them was Raman Khanna, his boss at Stanford at the time. What I recall from that conversation is Raman's description of Bob as a "very deep thinker". What an understatement!
Bob was an expert in the field of “identity management”, which provides the foundation for safe access to digital resources such as email, online banking, etc. He was internationally recognized for his foundation work in “federated identity”, a more secure approach to accessing Internet services. Somehow the term "expert" doesn't quite do it. He was much more than that... the online identity area he worked in was remarkably complex, with equal portions of technical, policy, and people challenges. To these challenges he brought clarity and wisdom, persuading others in industry and academia via steel-trap reasoning and quick wit --but mainly by radiating the high goal of doing the right thing for the community. His intellect brought respect; his humanity and humor brought trust and love, which I believe are the cornerstones of civilization.
In addition to his contributions to UW’s central IT organization, Bob was an active member of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the group which sets technology standards for the Internet, and Internet2, the organization which operates the nation’s premier research and education network.
Just recently Bob was awarded the Internet2 President’s Leadership Award, with this inscription:
For exceptional global leadership in the evolving world of digital identity.
For keen vision and acuity in enabling new paradigms and services of enduring benefit to global research, education and beyond.
For mentorship and personifying the essence of true collaboration and membership in Internet2 and InCommon.
In addition to being a world-renowned technologist, Bob loved sea kayaking, photography, soccer, and bread making. His work required extensive travel, and he never missed an opportunity to bring home gourmet flour from European bakeries to improve his own baguettes. Unfortunately, my office was on a different floor than Bob's, so I rarely got to partake in the samples he would bring in --though from a waist-line perspective, that was probably just as well.
Bob was on a mission to make the world a better place by sharing his expertise (and his bread!) It was a consuming mission and he was a scarce resource. No doubt his family paid the biggest price for that scarcity, and their only solace may be in realizing the magnitude of his contribution to the greater good. Everyone wanted more of his time; everyone had one last burning question to ask him. Now we must find our own way, but not without the guidance provided through his enduring legacy.
As others have said, Bob is proof that one person can make a huge difference. I would say that he is living proof of that. A gentle soul who lives on in this sphere, not only through his work, but everyone he touched: family, friends, and colleagues. It has been my honor to know him and be touched by him. I hope Eve and his daughters Annika and Julia know just how much respect and love those he touched have for Bob. He is and always will be special.
The obituary in the Seattle Times is here and a permanent tribute site in Bob’s honor may be found here, courtesy of Internet 2.