Eulogies to Shimon Even (1935-2004)

Shimon Even was born in Israel on June 15th, 1935. He died on May 1st, 2004.
In addition to his pioneering research contributions (most notably to Graph Algorithms and Cryptography), Shimon is known for having been a highly influential educator. He played a major role in establishing computer science education in Israel (e.g., at the Weizmann Institute and the Technion). He served as a source of professional inspiration and as a role model for generations of young students and researchers.

Eulogy by Arny Rosenberg (appeared in Theory of Computing Systems)

On May 1, 2004, the world of theoretical computer science suffered a stunning loss: Shimon Even passed away. Few computer scientists have had such a long, sustained, and influential career as Shimon. As an educator, he played a major role in establishing computer science education in Israel, at (at least) two major institutions: the Weizmann Institute and the Technion. As a researcher, he was a pioneer in the areas of graph algorithms and cryptography; he worked also in such diverse areas as switching and automata theory, coding theory, combinatorial algorithms, complexity theory, and distributed computing. In all of these areas, Shimon produced high-quality, innovative research for more than four decades. As a mentor to aspiring researchers, he was almost without peer, producing numerous doctoral students who went on to have their own successful research careers. (In this last regard, had Shimon stayed on at Harvard in the mid-1960's, I would have been his first doctoral student.)

In a sense, Shimon was the purest of pure theoreticians, following his nose toward research problems that were "the right" ones at the moment, not the faddish ones. Shimon's standards were impeccable, to the point where he would balk at employing any result whose proof he had not mastered himself. Shimon's integrity was unimpeachable: he would go to great lengths to defend any principle he believed in.

With all of the above, Shimon was always a friendly, approachable person. Few who interacted with him escaped without hearing at least a few of his seemingly endless supply of stories.

My personal relationship with Shimon began in 1962, his last year of grad school and my first, and it lasted until the very end. My personal sense of loss is immense. Indeed, for all of us whose lives intersected his, Shimon's memory remains a vivid, lasting inspiration.

Our field has truly lost one of its role models.

[May 2, 2004]

Two eulogies by Oded Goldreich

[The first eulogy was written on May 2, 2004. Actually it was adapted from text I wrote for his retirement party, which took place half a year before.]

Shimon had a tremendous influence on my life. Needless to say, Shimon leads the handful of researchers that has most influenced my professional life. But he also fits in the set of dozen people (including my parents...) that have most influenced my life at large.

It is already more than twenty years since I have graduated, but I still identify myself firstly as his student. For example, a few months ago, after a talk I gave, some guy came to me with a question. I started my answer by saying "my adviser, Shimon Even, would say...." (The specific quote, which is one of my favorites, is when a problem looks natural to me, I don't need a specific application.) In general, at times I hear myself expressing an opinion, and only later do I realize that it is either actually Shimon's opinion or is "just" strongly influenced by his views and attitudes, which I have mostly adopted. Needless to say, Shimon did not force his opinions on me. It is just that his opinions and attitudes were so appealing and were expressed or manifested so compellingly, that one would need a very good reason not to adopt them.

As opinionated and "full of attitudes" as Shimon was, few people are so accepting of The Other and the different. He might have strongly disagree with you and still (as long as your opinion is legitimate) you would clearly sense his deep respect of your autonomy as a human being. Unfortunately, this can be said of very few people...

I feel fortunate to be among the ones who's meeting with Shimon has left a life-long mark in their personality and have his image constantly present in their soul. It is his rich image that comforts me at this sad time.

[May 2, 2004]

[The next eulogy was written in June 2004, for publication in the proceedings of PODC'04.]

This year, on May 1, the theoretical computer science community lost one of its most inspiring role models.

Shimon Even was born in Israel on June 15th, 1935. He produced high-quality, innovative research for more than four decades in areas as diverse as switching and automata theory, coding theory, combinatorial (e.g., graph) algorithms, complexity theory, cryptography and distributed computing. In addition to his pioneering research contributions, Shimon was a highly influential educator. He played a major role in establishing computer science education in Israel (e.g., at the Weizmann Institute and the Technion). He was the thesis adviser of more than a dozen PhD students (of whom Baruch Awerbuch and Sergio Rajsbaum are best known in the PODC community), and an informal mentor of numerous other young researchers. He was the author of two influential books, most notably ``Graph Algorithms'' (Computer Science Press, 1979).

Shimon Even was a great scientist and a remarkable person. His attitudes towards research have influenced anybody who was fortunate to have a close interaction with him and often left a deep mark even in researchers who just heard him lecture. Through these fortunate people, Shimon's influence has been propagated and will continue to propagate further.

Shimon always followed his own judgment and understanding, rather than the common trend or fashion. He chose to study problems that he considered natural and important. He sought simple solutions that uncover the essence of the problem (rather than obscure it). He spent much time seeking the best way to present his own work as well as the work of others in lectures and writing. He would not compromise on any of the above attitudes, which seem all rooted in a deep commitment to truth and science.

Viewing the world as a battlefield between hope and despair, it seems that Shimon Even's death can be ``averaged'' by us strengthening our commitment to his way of life: the uncompromising quest of truth.

Eulogy by Nissim Francez

Back in 1969, Shimon, together with Amir Pnueli, interviewed me for admittance to the graduate program in Computer Science, just established in the Weizmann institute. Years later, I asked Shimon what convinced him to admit me, in spite of never having approached programming before, and he said "well, you knew what finite automata were ..." This was Shimon, the one that looked for the underlying science even where engineering was supposed to be the name of the game.

Not being familiar with Shimon's way of grading examinations, I was sure I am about to leave this intellectual paradise, having exited the Algorithms exam with what looked as a grade of 17 (out of 100). Fortunately, his grading system converted it to 85; even more fortunately, I succeeded well in Amir's courses, and stayed to complete my Ph.D with Amir.

It was Shimon again who brought me to the Technion, after two years of postdoc abroad. Since then, we became colleagues. Over the years, we had many arguments on scientific issues (not to speak about political issues ...), but I knew he can be trusted to accept criticism or opposition and not hold it against me when deciding on tenure on promotion, for example. Of course, sharing neighboring offices, we had also a lot of fruitful discussions. His advice was always appreciated by me.

Clearly, Shimon was a source of scientific inspiration to me, even though I drifted away from Algorithms, Complexity theory and the like. He served as an inspiration source for the whole department, being the senior scientist in it, shaping it and highly influencing its development.

For many years, for me Shimon was the department. I miss him.

[May 5, 2004]

See memorial page for Shimon Even.

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