Tomorrow I'll be involved in one of the most rewarding aspects of my job--convocation. Without being overly melodramatic, I love and hate this moment, as it marks the passing of a set of students I have come to know and respect. After spending hundreds of hours teaching, mentoring, and sharing it's hard to say goodbye, especially those who have gotten involved in our open source work and become something of a online family. I've done it many, many times.
Yet tomorrow is unlike previous ceremonies, and special to me in a very personal way. Tomorrow Seneca recognizes a great man and friend, Mike Shaver, with an honorary degree. On the eve of this event, I wanted to pause and share some thoughts with those who won't be able to attend.
I met Mike for the first time in December 2005. I was working on a research project and wanted to modify Firefox's UI--something that seemed like an impossible task at the time. I sent an email to Mozilla asking for help, and John Lilly (thanks for not deleting it, John!) forwarded me on to Mike Beltzner. Beltzner set-up a meeting and he and Mozilla's "Technology Strategist," Mike Shaver, came to see me at Seneca. After that first meeting I was struck by how approachable they were, how willing to engage with us on what must have seemed like a small thing, how willing to get involved with something outside their core project. Three years later those feelings have only gotten stronger.
Mike Shaver taught me what open source is. He taught me how to work on code larger and more complicated than anything I'd ever seen before. He taught me how to be brave and empowered me to try things, to take risks. More than this, he welcomed me, my students, and my colleagues into his world. Mozilla is home to me now, but only because I was let in the front door by one of the people who built the house.
Tomorrow I'm thrilled that I'll have the pleasure of doing the same. In reality Mike has been a fixture of Seneca for many years. He is the original Mozilla representative in #seneca, the creator of countless research projects, a mentor to more than a hundred students, a frequent lecturer and speaker, a member of the CS Advisory Committee, and I can't even think what else. To say that he's a committed friend to Seneca isn't quite enough, and I think Honorary Degree recipient is more fitting.
I'm approached by a lot of open source projects, academic institutions, and companies around the world who want to duplicate what Seneca and Mozilla have created in terms of open source education. They want to know how you do this, how you replicate it. Every time I have one of these conversations the first thing I think about is Mike: you need someone who really cares about education, who cares about community, who cares about results and will help people get there. You need someone who knows every corner of the project and who is willing to share that knowledge with others. I'll be honest, I'm not sure his equal exists. He's among the best programmers I've ever known, he's one of the few people I can't keep up with when it comes to quick rejoinder, and he's able to do 100 things at once--some of which are always Seneca related, and I thank him for that.
If you can't be there tomorrow I hope you'll join me in congratulating Mike. Imagine Mozilla without Mike. Imagine Seneca without Mike. You're an amazing guy, Michael Shaver. Congratulations.