A complex guy


This isn't a story exactly, it's some observations. There are lots of comments here about Roy's courtesy and thoughtfulness and kindness, his generosity. He had all those things to a really remarkable degree: that's all true.

But he wasn't exactly self-effacing. Roy was relentless at getting what he wanted. He worked away and worked away on all fronts at once, and I realized early on that if Roy wanted something A: he was usually right about it, and B: he would not quit till it happened. He was mentally tough and tenacious, but he was also wise and smart and saw a couple moves ahead of most people, so there was almost always point C: it's going to benefit a lot of other people, you might as well get on board. That's not self-effacing, it's something more interesting and unique.

Also although Roy was a very strategically patient at getting what he wanted he was basically an extremely impatient guy. He was pretty good at concealing it but he got impatient easily and he generally responded to impatience by multitasking. The laptop was practically invented for Roy, so he could do email when meetings got slow.

He was scathingly funny when someone really irritated him. It was easy to get him mildly irritated, although his basic kindness mediated it. But when he got really bugged he was pretty funny about it. He was especially irritated by mindless adherence to procedure and by moments when stubborn tradition shut down ideas

Roy had no taste at all for formality and he was never, ever, pompous or haughty. He was more likely to be distracted and slightly oblivious except when you had his full attention, in which case he was all the things people say he was. I remember telling my parents about Roy and saying that you'll ever know, when you meet him, what a big deal he is. There was no self-promotion. He promoted the work, and the work he did was almost always done in community with others

He was extremely skeptical about the profession--about snobbery masquerading as standards, about the bubble reputation, about the ways the familiar often obscured the talent. Lot of people feel ambivalent about their profession, but Roy's skepticism never turned into alienation, and he never stopped working to improve custom he thought were useless and corrupt.

That to me is the most admirable thing about Roy--not that he was some kind of saint, not his many gifts, but that although he was an impatient, often single minded and stubborn, driven guy, he learned how to blend those qualities and turn them into community, instead of selfishness. He was flawed like we all are but he was an unusually morally conscious man, and keenly aware of how to make his weaknesses useful to all those around him


Mike O'Malley, “A complex guy,” Thanks, Roy, accessed January 28, 2023, https://thanksroy.org/items/show/522.

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