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June 1999

Glenn Davis, 1955-1999

When I first started at Unidata in 1992, I was a little intimidated by Glenn. Glenn seemed to think at a completely different level than I, and I wasn't sure that he would take me seriously. But it turned out that Glenn was an extremely patient teacher who could communicate concepts and technical details without a trace of condescension. While Glenn and I did not work on the same projects often, when we did I never failed to learn from him. . . . He was loads of fun, and always a good sport. Lately, Glenn and I were lending each other books on explorers and adventurers. I like to think that now he's experiencing the greatest adventure of all.
-- Peggy Bruehl, former UCAR employee now at McKesson HBOC

Some of my strongest memories of Glenn are from times when he was not even around--times when I was preparing a presentation where Glenn was likely to be in the audience. An important item in my checklist was to carefully consider, "What will Glenn think of this?" His incisive mind never failed to grasp the important issues immediately and to analyze them from a creative perspective that many of us struggled to duplicate in some small way. Lurking in the back of my mind was always the profound fear of making a point that would be classified as "not only wrong, but wrong-headed." No doubt my future work will be better because I'm so conditioned to ask: "What would Glenn think of this?"
--Ben Domenico, Unidata

Many and diverse are the images of Glenn that spring to mind when I reflect on our four-year acquaintance. There was Glenn the whimsical and light-hearted. Glenn the inquisitive. The intense and analytical Glenn. The quirky, quixotic, unpredictable Glenn, and, of course, Glenn of the awesome intelligence. How greatly we all miss this multifaceted Glenn. How astounding that he is gone. . . .
--Jo Hansen, Unidata

On Monday, 3 May, Unidata lost one of its leading architects. Glenn Davis--trapeze artist, pilot, yogi, and software engineer extraordinaire--and two passengers died when Glenn's plane crashed near Cedar City, Utah, during a thunderstorm. Glenn was experiencing icing and a shortage of fuel and radioed his intention to land at Cedar City, although the airport was in the midst of severe thunderstorms with rain, hail, and low clouds. Radar and radio contact were lost at 2:53 p.m., and the crash site was discovered by a military helicopter at 4:00 p.m. There were no survivors.

Glenn was accompanied by another well-known member of the atmospheric sciences community, Ryan Sanders (NOAA), who had studied ozone depletion over Antarctica and Greenland. The third passenger was Robert Jones, a more recent acquaintance of Glenn's from yoga classes.

Glenn attended Reed College, where his studies focused on mathematics and physics (with time also spent on art, theater, and anthropology). After a varied career in a number of different arenas, Glenn joined Unidata in 1987. His personal and professional impact on the program has been profound.

As a software engineer, Glenn was instrumental in creating Unidata's flagship software products: the netCDF and LDM packages. NetCDF (for network Common Data Form) supports the creation, access, and sharing of scientific data in a wide range of disciplines and contexts. The LDM (for Local Data Manager) software is designed for event-driven data distribution. The LDM is used by over 150 universities and a multitude of government agencies to handle weather data that is delivered over the Internet almost as soon as the data are generated.

On a more personal level, Glenn's interests in dance, trapeze artistry, yoga, and piloting led him to keep unusual and varied hours, and he'd often appear in unusual attire, ensuring that conventionality would never engulf Unidata headquarters. His passions for soaring, physically and intellectually, pulled those of us who worked with him upward in his wake. It was a privilege to keep in sight someone who soared higher than most of us could imagine. •Sally Bates, Unidata

A memorial service for Glenn brought some 200 people to the Mesa Lab on Sunday, 16 May. An interactive memorial has been created on the Unidata Web site. Visitors may add their reflections to the site. Shown here are excerpts from the dozens of comments already posted.


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