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Some Famous People I Met

Jack is retired. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.

Jack Lee - 2016

Jack Lee - 2016


I consider myself to be very lucky and blessed. Over the years, I've met quite a few people that happens to be somewhat famous. This is a tribute to those that have had an impact on my life. Some are living and some have past on.

-August 2015

Revised: Nov. 2015


Ed Lucia

Professor Lucia, as he was known, was my college fencing coach at CCNY from 1970-1973. He had quite an impact on all of us on the team. I wrote a hub in tribute to Professor Ed Lucia. I've also written an article for the CCNY Alumni magazine (Winter 2009 issue; Page 8) along with some of his other students. Even though he was a sports coach, his lessons on and off the strip have had profound influences on all of us. He seems to know just what to say to motivate each of us in our unique way. Some of my teammates are close friends to this day. We often reminisce about the coach and some of his life philosophies. One of which is the importance of practice. "if you miss one day of practice you know it, if you miss two days of practice, your best friend knows it, if you miss three days, the whole world knows it." We will always be grateful for his guidance. He was named Collegiate Coach of the Year in 1964 by Time Magazine. Standing at only five foot two inches, he is a giant among men.


Gerald Goertzel

Jerry was my mentor at IBM Research. He is one of the smartest person I know. He taught me quite a bit about computer programming. He invented a programming language called PDS. It stands for Programming Development System. It is an ideal programming language for doing experimental projects. It is an interpretive language similar to APL but very powerful. Most programming language such as C or C++ needs to be compiled before it can be executed. This is a laborious step especially if you are trying different algorithms and want to test it quickly. It also has the distinct advantage of being able to code at the register level (assembly code). This is necessary to improve the execution speed of any program. We were using PDS to develop algorithms for image processing. The optimization of code was a key advantage and lead to numerous patents.

By most people's account, he was a difficult person to deal with. However, I didn't have any issue with him. On one occasion, Jerry got agitated over something and lost his temper. I guess he was impatient and lost it with me and said something rude. I knew he didn't mean it and let it roll over my head. I left his office and went back to my own cubicle a little stunned. A while later, after cooling down, he came over and apologized. It was humbling and I accepted his apology. I guess it could has gone very differently if I had reacted. Genius has it's downside.

Jerry was famous not for his work at IBM Research but for early work in theoretical physics when he worked on the Manhattan Project - the development of the atomic bomb. He is also known for the Goertzel Algorithm.

I am grateful to Jerry for taking me and others under his wings. He was a good colleague and a friend.


Joan Mitchell

One of the few Women Fellows at IBM. She was a pioneer in the image compression algorithm and standards of CCITT Group 3 Fax standards and JPEG and MPEG.

Joan was a colleague and a manager at IBM Research in the Image Technologies department. Even though I did not work directly for her, we shared and contributed to some projects that help improved some IBM products. Her expertise was in compression algorithms. She participated in the Standards group that provided the basis for many of the advancements. She is hard working and a detail oriented individual. To understand the full extent of her impact, every time one sends a fax or take a digital photo or watch a youtube video, her work on compression was present.

She was one of the few colleagues that took an interest in mentoring. She tries to help younger members of our team to develop both professionally and personally. She was awarded with the status of IBM Fellows (one of a handful of women to achieve that status).


Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth was an American painter of distinction. I met him and his wife Betsy only a couple of times in the early 1990s. We were part of a research project to develop a high quality imaging system for Mr. Wyeth's artwork. Over his long career, he has produced over 10,000 works of art. We were one of the first to deliver a total integrated system that included a high resolution capture system along with a standalone PC workstation to store and access and display the digital images with associated meta data.

Even though I only met Mr. Wyeth a few times, I felt like I know the man. Because we spent quite a lot of time at his compound in Chadds Ford Pa. and interacting with some of his staff and seeings his studio and his artworks.

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On the one occasion where I was chosen among our team to present the demo system to Mr. Wyeth and his wife, I was nervous at first but he made me feel very comfortable. When I brought up a sample painting on our high resolution screen of 25 inches, he was impressed by the accuracy of the color fidelity but he commented that "it just doesn't have the impact..." It was later that we realized that the original painting was three feet by four feet tall.

At the conclusion of the project code name "Brandywine", we were given a token memento shown here. It was a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal that he was recently awarded by President G H Bush.

His death in 2009 at age 91 was publicized in a New York Times Obituary. His most famous painting is "Christina's World", however, having been an admirer of his style and technique, one of my favorite is "The Big Room." The details and contrast of light and dark was superb. It was a challenge for our digital capture system to reproduce.

The Big Room - Andrew Wyeth


Father Leonard Boyle

Father Boyle was the prefect of the Vatican Library. He was a visionary and a scholar. I met Father Boyle while working on the Rome Reborn project at IBM Research and later grew into a full blown project with the Vatican Library. IBM donated time, resources and funding from various divisions to provide worldwide access to materials at the Vatican Library. A paper was published describing our experience.

Father Boyle is a typical Irish gentleman with charm and a sense of humor. On one occasion visiting the Vatican Conclave, he took us on a tour of the library and rare manuscripts. Some of them are over 500 years old. He can open a drawer, pull out a manuscript and start describing the content and it's history almost like a storyteller. You can see the gleam in his eyes when he is engulfed in the moment.


Father Oscar Lukefahr

A chance meeting with Father Oscar occurred on a business trip to Rome. I was sitting next to Father Oscar and struck up a conversation. It was a long flight and Father Oscar was such an interesting character. It turned out we were also staying at the same hotel in Rome. I learned that Father Oscar is an educator on Catholicism and have published several books. He took down my name and address and sent me three signed copy of his books. It was one of the moments that helped me during my time of conversion and discernment. I can't help but think that our meeting was not by chance. In 2015 Father Oscar past away and I was saddened by the news. His obituary is here.


Monsignor Dermot Brennan

Monsignor was my local parish priest at St.Patrick's Church of Yorktown. He was a talented administrator as well as a religious leader. He is also a gifted magician and would often perform his magic during Masses for children. I joined our parish in a time when my children was going through their conversion. My wife is Catholic since birth but I did not belong to any organized religion. I consider myself a Christian but never made the commitment. When I joined St. Patrick's, I was welcomed by the community and felt the warmth and generosity of the parishers. I also enjoyed the homily of Father Brennan and his weekly message in the Parish bulletin. He was not afraid to take on controversial issues.

I served on our Parish Council for 3 years and worked with Monsignor over some projects in particular the launching of our Parish website. I was sorry to see Father Brennan retire but grateful for his support over the years. In retirement, Father Brennan wrote a book that is an excellent read titled "A Parish Priest -A man of Mystery."

On a personal note, I am grateful to Monsignor for volunteering to perform the funeral Mass for my Mother-in-law. Being very busy, I just assumed our regular priest, would be the one to perform. Monsignor insisted and did a beautiful job and helped our family, especially my wife, through our grief. That's the person he is, always caring for his flock.


Oliver Wells

A distinguished scientist at IBM Research and grandson of HG Wells. He was also my neighbor. I met Mr. Wells quite by chance even though we both worked at IBM Research. He was in a different department and working on completely different projects. We met while walking around our neighborhood. He and his wife Pamela lived three blocks away. He had retired from IBM for quite a few years but he still holds an emeritus status and has an office at IBM. We would share our stories while on walks and also occasionally shared a meal at some local restaurants. He is very friendly and outgoing. He have no problem striking up a conversation with strangers. His interests are many. He was a diver when he was young. He was also a skier. He also volunteered at a hospital where he cheered up people recovering from illness. Being British, he had a very different view of politics. We tend to disagree on most issues but we kept our arguments civil. I am more conservative leaning where as he tends to be more liberal. I enjoyed getting a different perspective especially someone from a European point of view. He past away a few years ago and he will be missed.


Seth Godin

Founder of Squidoo and author of numerous marketing books. I first learned of Seth Godin when I joined Squidoo, a defunct Web 2.0 site for publishing. Last year, Squidoo merged into HubPages and now I am continuing my publishing on HubPages. I read some of his books which tend to be short and insightful including "The Dip" and "Permission Marketing". On one of his live speaking engagement in NYC, I attended and shared this photo. I was one of the Squidoo enthusiasts and created many "lens" over the 6 years. I was disheartened when I learned that Seth has sold Squidoo to HubPages. It has taken me about six months to make the transition.

I joined Squidoo mainly because it had an element of charity. One can choose to donate the earnings to some worthy charity. I was disappointed that HubPages does not have that option. I am grateful to Seth Godin for getting Squidoo off the ground and getting me interested in publishing. I just wished he could have handled the transition to Hubpages better.


Jonathan Hyman

Jonathan Hyman is an American photographer. He started an obsession after 9/11 to photograph local tributes by various random people affected by this tragic event. I met Jonathan while volunteering at the 9/11 exhibit back in 2006 or so. I created a hub to help publicize his works. His latest exhibition at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial was well received. I was invited to attend a talk to kick off this exhibit. He also published a book to document his experience. It is titled "The landscape of 9/11: A photographer's journey." He is a talented photographer that captures the moment and tells a rich story by his images. We share a common bond on the importance of 9/11 and its impact on our national experience.

Over the years, he has given me some signed reproductions of his photographs. I'm glad I was able to help him with some digital image processing techniques.

His latest photo exhibit is on display at the 9/11 Museum Memorial till May 2016. Be sure to check it out when you are visiting NYC.

Common Denominator

Reflecting on these remarkable people, I can't help but notice a common theme. They are all very passionate about what they do, they are hard working and they are using their talents for the betterment of mankind. That may be a guide for the rest of us. Making a difference in what we choose to do with our lives is the most important decision.


I considered myself blessed to have come in contact with these remarkable individuals. One way or another, they have had a positive impact on my life. I hope you enjoyed this excursion.

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© 2015 Jack Lee


Jack Lee (author) from Yorktown NY on August 03, 2015:

Thanks for checking in. I am very lucky.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 03, 2015:

How unusual for one person to meet so many famous people. You are blessed for sure.

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