Lee Dirks died yesterday with his wife in a car accident in Peru:
And John Wilbanks: http://del-fi.org/post/30531593681/remembering-lee-dirks
So I'll try to add something different.
I met Lee about several years ago after Tony Hey moved to run Microsoft External Research. Lee was the person we immediately interacted with and who was the lynchpin of the relationship. Lee was fun, focused, dynamic, everywhere, with a huge involvement. He was the centre of any group. He was fun to listen to, relaxing, entertaining. You never felt stress when lee was around.
He made things happen. We worked together for three years on Chem4Word (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/chem4word/ ) and I think this is one of the many things that he would like to be remembered for:
The chemistry is important but it's not the most important thing. The task was enormous; create a working, modern chemical authoring system for the Word/Net environment. By conventional methods it would never have happened. And indeed it started slowly, with Lee steering Microsoft to work effectively with an external group on – literally – a daily basis. But as we developed Lee was able to spot opportunities and change direction when it really mattered. And something that could never have been dreamt of at the start of the project – Lee steered it to being completely Open Source.
We had a lot of laughs – you cannot survive a project like that without them. And Lee was at the centre. For me, you are still with us.