Obi Wan McCarty

[Below is the text of my introduction of Willard McCarty, winner of the 2013 Busa Award.]

As the chair of the awards committee that selected Prof. McCarty for this award it is my pleasure to offer a few words of introduction.

I’m going to go out on a limb this afternoon and assume that you already know that Willard McCarty is Professor of Humanities Computing and Director of the Doctoral Program in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London, and that he is Professor in the Digital Humanities Research Group, University of Western Sydney and that he is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute (London). I’ll assume that you already know that he is Editor of the British journal, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews and that he’s founding Editor of the online seminar Humanist. And I am sure you know that Willard is recipient of the Canadian Award for Outstanding Achievement in Computing in the Arts and Humanities, and of the prestigious Richard W. Lyman Award of the National Humanities Center. You have probably already read his 2005 book titled Humanities Computing, and you know of his many, many other writings and musing.

So I’m not going to talk about any of that stuff.

And since I’m sure that everyone here knows that the Roberto Busa Award was established in 1998. I’m not going to explain how the Busa award was set up to recognize outstanding lifetime achievement in the application of information and communications technologies to humanities research.

No I’m not going to say anything about that either.

Instead, I wish to say a few words about this fellow here. Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 7.23.12 AM

This is Obi-Wan McCarty. Long before I met him in person, he had become a virtual friend, model, and mentor.

I began computing in the humanities in 1993, and like so many of us in those early days I was a young maverick with little or no idea what had been done before. Those were the days before the rebellion, when the dark forces of the Empire were still quite strong. It was a time when an English major with a laptop was considered a dangerous rebel. At times I was scared, and I felt alone in a dark side of a galaxy far, far, away.

And then somewhere between 1993 and 2001 I began to sense a force in the galaxy.

One day, in early 2001, I was walking with my friend Glen Worthey, and I mentioned how I had recently discovered the Humanist list and how there had been this message posted by Willard McCarty with the cryptic subject line “14.”

“Ah yes,” Glen said, “Obi-Wan McCarty. The force is strong with him.”

Message 14 from Obi-Wan was a birthday message. Humanist was 14 that day and Willard began his message with a reflection on “repetition” and how frequently newcomers to the list would ask questions that had already been asked. Rather than chastise those newbies, and tell them to go STFA (search the freakin’ archive), Willard encouraged them. He wrote in that message of how “repetition is a means of maintaining group memory.” I was encouraged by those words and by Willard’s ongoing and relentless commitment not simply to deep, thoughtful, and challenging scholarship, but to nurturing, teaching, welcoming, and mentoring each new generation.

So Willard, thank you for your personal mentorship, thank you for continuing to demonstrate that scholarly excellence and generosity are kindred spirits. Congratulations on this award. May the force be with you.

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