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Remembering Charlie Bender, 1940 - 2007

Charlie Bender, my long time boss and friend passed at 10am on October 25, 2007 at Presbyterian Hospital, Albuquerque, New Mexico. I first met Charlie (if you hear someone call him Charles, then you can be sure that this person did not know Charlie), where he was a Director of Advanced Computational Methods Center at the University of Georgia at Athens, GA. It was 1987 and I was looking for some serious position being a postdoc at the Department of Computer Science at Washington University in St. Louis. While I had an outstanding offer from a major American pharmaceutical company (i.e., at that time stability and prosperity) Charlie charmed me. While it cost me money, I decided to turn down the pharma offer, and I do not regret it at all. Maybe I would be rich and powerful (the company is doing quite well) but I am not sure I would be that satisfied and happy. I was about to move to Athens, but Charlie called me, and said: Wait a bit longer... We may have a better opportunity.... And then it was... He became a Director of the newly established Ohio Supercomputer Center in Columbus, Ohio. While ACMC at UGA was a great place and for a computational chemist this place offers a chance to interact with the best of the best the OSC, as supercomputing is concerned, was simply a different order of magnitude. In August 1988 I moved to Columbus to join Charlie. And I was doing important and useful things for many years to come. And I could even interact with people at UGA from Columbus since Charlie let it happen by telling them: Jan is a very good guy and this started a great collaboration.

People reflect on his contributions, but for me, he was an inspiration. I am not good in writing CVs, even for myself, but luckily I could find an overview of Charlie's career from the brochure printed on the occasion of his Distinguished Alumni Award at the University of Pacific that you will find at the end of this page. Here I just want to share a few of my personal thoughts. Charlie saw things earlier, further and wider, and he had a gift of making you try and take a challenge. With him it was not just work it was an adventure. And this is how the CCL was born, for example. I initially thought about a help desk for computational chemists that used our Supercomputer Center. And he said: Why? Go Global, Go Internet! It is a future! Look what the CERN guys are doing! And I did... He was my boss, but he was my friend. He did not ask me what I done this week. I wanted to tell him what I done this week. Was he a Perfect Manager? Director? Person? No... Did he contribute more than many Perfect Managers, Directors, Persons? Yes, he did.... People around him got wings... His ideas are behind so many initiatives in Ohio and USA, and even further, but he did not sign his name under most of them. A joy that he inspired people to do something new was for him much more important than to rubber stamp it. He also was a perfect match maker and brought together many people who did not even know that they work on the same problem but from different ends. But now he is gone... I got last email from him in mid September, with a subject MEDICAL TEST with three funny images and the text:

STARE INTO THE CAT'S EYES (for 10 seconds)
[1st image of the cat]
Then Scroll Down
[2nd image of the nice sad Labrador puppy dog]
Scroll Down
Thank You!!!
are now complete
[3rd image of a laughing kitty]
Sorry -- couldn't resist...

And this was his way to say: Sorry Jan... Have to go... And when I tried to call him on his cell, I did not hear his: Yellow... Charlie speaking.... He was in and out from the hospital and surgery but he lost this last battle...

The CASC (Coalition of Academic Scientific Computation), whose Charlie was a founding chairman, established a Scholarship in Memory of Charlie Bender ( ). The donations (tax-deductible) will be used to cover the expenses of students to attend Supercomputing conferences. Please help to continue the work that Charlie excelled: inspire people and send your contribution. Checks should be made payable to CASC with a notation on the check indicating the donation is for the Charlie Bender Scholarship Fund. You may mail checks directly to Jack at the following address:
Jack Hoskins, CPA, Inc.
415 E. Broad Street, Suite 111
Columbus, OH 43215

On November 28, 2007 his friends met at the Ohio Supercomputer Center to remember Charlie. Dr. Dick Pritchard proposed that we follow the tradition of Irish Wake:
The traditional Irish Wake was commonplace around Ireland up until about the 1970's. This was the process of Laying out the body of a departed relative in the house where they lived and /or died. All of the family and quite a few of the deceased ones neighbors and friends would gather at the house. The body was usually in a coffin in the parlour of the house or living room. There would be lots of food and plenty of drink to be consumed. People would come and socialize and remember the departed person's life. This wasn't a time for tears to say the least, it was more of a party than a funeral. It was the traditional Irish way of celebrating one's life and ensuring that they had a good send off. A proper Irish Wake is worth the time and effort required to return to the old customs. It is hard to imagine a passing being complete without one!
We had a chance to relive the moments and shared funny stories about Charlie. This is how he would want it. We also shared photos. Some of them you can see below by clicking on thumbnails:

They are unordered and do not have legends, but you will see Charlie, since he is the one who smiles (or looks like an IBM salesman from the 60-ties to make you laugh, since this is a Cray XMP). If you want to contribute a picture of Charlie, or your memory, please send it to me, and I will put it here.

From the brochure: The Forty-Fifth Annual Distinguished Alumni Award, University of the Pacific, Stockton Campus, Friday, October 18, 2002

Dr. Charles Bender has dedicated a lifetime of service to furthering the research and development of high performance computing and networking and its application to business and education. He also helped facilitate communication between research organizations in business, industry and education. The Pacific Alumni Association honors Dr. Bender for his contributions with the Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Service.
Dr. Bender is  (unfortunately, he no longer is...)  the director of the Computational Sciences and Mathematics Division of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
After graduating from the Pacific with a bachelor's in chemistry and then master's in atomic physics, Dr. Bender went on to receive a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Washington. He did postdoctoral work in theoretical chemistry at Battelle Memorial Institute, in Columbus, Ohio, in 1968.
In 1971, he accepted a position at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, where he was asked to do groundbreaking work estimating the life expectancy of country's current nuclear weapons stockpile. He attained to the position of head of the Chemistry and Materials Science Department, which is a large department of 400 employees that supports the internal laboratory, as well as self-generated externally funded programs.
Dr. Bender took on the position of head of Advanced Computing Methods Center at the University of Georgia in 1985, where he later attained the position of associate vice president for Research. While at the University of Georgia, Dr. Bender developed a technology outreach program through the University of Georgia Research Corporation, which he also managed.
In 1988, Dr. Bender moved to the Ohio State University, where his career-shaping work would take place. He took the position of the first director of the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), a shared statewide resource funded by the State of Ohio Board of Regents. Its goal was to support academic and industrial research throughout Ohio developing a statewide communication system, and developing and distributing high performance computing services and facilities.
Dr. Bender lead OSC's growth from a fledgling state supercomputer facility to a dynamic, national high-performance computing, networking and policy institution. Dr. Bender provided the vision and direction to OSC, linking the computing and networking worlds with universities, government and industry. He has been the force behind OSC's collaborative efforts with the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense's High Performance Computing Modernization Program, the Internet 2 Project, and several departments within the State of Ohio. In 1987, OSC had a state appropriation of $2 million; in fiscal year 2002, OSC's total budget exceeds $26 million.
OSC was combined with Academic Computing in 1994, and Dr. Bender was named head of the new larger Academic Technology Services at Ohio State University. He served in this position until moving to his current position in 2001.
In addition to his extensive professional work, Dr. Bender has served on numerous government review and advisory committees, including those for the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Bender also founded the Coalition of Academic Scientific Computation, connecting four supercomputing centers from around the nation for exchanging ideas and works in progress.
In 1996, President Clinton named Dr. Bender the academic director for the Department of Defense's High Performance Computing Modernization Program located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. He currently  (unfortunately, not currently)  serves on the Advisory Board of Wright State University Technology Research Institute, the Board of Directors for the Central Ohio Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, the "Highlands Group", for the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and the National Science Foundation Academic Research Infrastructure Program review panel.
Presented at the Forty-Fifth Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner at the University of the Pacific, Stockton Campus, on Friday, October 18, 2002.

Memories contributed by Charlie's friend, Thomas

Whether intended or not, Charlie profoundly influenced me by his personal example to become a serious programmer and not allow myself to be daunted by how big a personal human effort the process of programming, debugging and problem-solving then required. He proved by example that if you persisted and were determined enough, it could be done, a message taught by actually doing it that has stuck with me to this day, even though it later proved very difficult to sell or teach this concept to other potential programmers. Needless to say, the term "user-friendly" had not yet been coined in those days. "User-hostile" was nearer the truth. Charlie was that rare personal example that proved by dint of dogged determination, and unrelenting persistence, a large computer program could be got to run and actually used to successfully solve the underlying mathematical problem. He was a true artist and his insight was spot-on. Chemistry was his inspiration and computers and code were his Sistine Chapel. It was an honor and a privilege to have been a witness to such genius in action. I will think of him fondly with every line of code I ever write and every Chemometrics application I'm ever involved in.
Thank you again for the opportunity to share these reflections. I share your belief that this connection was a stroke of great good fortune. Important connections like this seem to happen in mysterious ways.
Thomas D. Sandry, PhD
Industrial Statistical Consultant, Retired


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