|YaK:: A Tribute to Thomas M. Rodgers (1 Aug 1943 - 10 Apr 2012)
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Martin Gardner is perhaps responsible for more people becoming
professional mathematicians (and possibly magicians and jugglers too)
than anyone else in history.
Tom Rodgers was the moving force behind a conference in 1993 in Atlanta in Martin Gardner's honor: the first Gathering for Gardner attracted many mathematicians, jugglers, puzzlers, sceptics and magicians, to a conference to celebrate his influence. (As an attendee at the peripheral vendor area of the conference, I can attest that it was fun even at a distance).
Years later, I finally scored an invitation to the conference, and met Tom Rodgers, still in charge of the meeting, and still running the show (as indeed he did to the very end). A man with a mission, retired after a long and successful career, he wanted to make sure that every aspect of the meeting ran smoothly: checking with every participant that things were all good, making sure that if people had not paid to attend a dinner event that it was because they really didn't want to attend that evening's festivities (and usually persuading them that the real did!), and hosting an incredible party at his house for all the hundreds of conference attendees.
After Martin Gardner died in 2010, Tom and others came up with the idea of Celebration of Mind, to be held annually on or about Gardner's birthday. In 2011, there were Celebrations held on every continent, including Antarctica, and at the 2012 Gathering for Gardner, a plea was made for a CoM to be held at the North Pole.
Tom's contribution to the life of the mind has been that of a catalyst: to bring together hundreds of incredible people, to give them a forum to meet, to communicate, and to interact with amazing individuals from different disciplines, to form connections, and to inspire. In 2010, I described one day at the G4G9 as the best day I've had in my life so far. That reflects how I feel about the contribution Tom made, and the impact that he has had.
He will be sorely missed. But our greatest tribute to him will be to keep his Gatherings, and the Celebrations of Mind, going strong!
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