Chuck Watson – thank you

I am deeply saddened tonight to learn of the death of a mentor, friend, and co-author, Charles ‘Chuck’ Watson of Indiana University who died in September. Chuck was a diamond of a man, smart as a whip, funny, and a straight talker on the most difficult of subjects. His death makes the world a lesser place because he always practiced what he preached — do good work and make the world better.

I met Chuck 30 years ago, almost to the day. I had completed my PhD in Loughborough and was contemplating a post-doc at IU in a specially formed Institute for the Study of Human Capabilities that he directed. As luck would have it, he was on sabbatical at Cambridge that semester and drove up to interview me. In all honesty, the interview really consisted of several gin and tonics in the railway hotel across from my office while we chatted about various topics before he uttered a number, out of the blue. This, it turned out, was the salary I would receive and I was to think about it and let him know.

Of course, I took the offer (after a little bargaining) and found myself a couple of months later in a freezing Bloomington, living in a pint-sized apartment near the football stadium, trying to navigate life in the US. I planned to come for an academic year, but I ended up becoming a citizen. I worked with Chuck, among others, on a series of projects related to individual differences which resulted in a well-cited paper we published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. Chuck would visit my office regularly to discuss ideas, and we would explore widely, but I also learned that while he enjoyed the topics and the ideas we exchanged, he also was quite keen that I keep a supply of Marlboro cigarettes which he could smoke during our conversations and the inevitable strolls that led us to the Runcible Spoon if it was morning, or better yet, Nick’s Bar if it was a little later.

Time passes and sometimes connections are not maintained as we would wish until it is too late. Tonight I mourn Chuck, but I think of the good times, the humor, and the moments that make a life. Chuck lived his fully, and I will honor his memory by doing the best I can to follow his advice: work hard at what you love and make the world a better place. To Chuck, thank you.

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