Thursday, August 21, 2008

Remembering Gary Houk

This week has been a difficult one for OCLC staff. On Monday, August 18, 2008, our friend and colleague, Gary R. Houk passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

A person widely respected, liked and admired by his colleagues, Gary started at OCLC in 1974 as a programmer/analyst and held many technical leadership roles, rising through the ranks to senior management and serving over his career at OCLC as Vice President, Member Services, later as Vice President, Cataloging and Metadata Services, and most recently as Vice President, Corporate Information Technology and Business Integration.

Despite challenges with chemotherapy treatments and the reduced mobility associated with his medical condition over the last year and half, Gary -- as was his nature -- did not let his illness deter him from being an active and engaged leader at OCLC nor did he permit his illness to deny him the pleasure of taking part in his daughter’s wedding.

For myself, many of my colleagues, Gary’s family, and his numerous friends who attended a memorial service today at a local church, it was comforting to be reminded of Gary’s warmth, charm, good-humor, and his life’s love (his wife, Randi), his life’s joy (his daughter, Shannon), his love of family, his loyalties (Gary was a graduate and life-long supporter of The Ohio State University), his passions (his work at OCLC and his passion for the game of golf), his public-spiritedness (Gary served on many local civic and business organizations in Dublin), and his personal faith.

Described during the memorial service as a “larger-than-life” figure who leaves a larger-than-life hole in the fabric of the lives of those around him, Gary was for the many of us who had the pleasure to work for and with him over these many years, a reliable, ever-present, ever-well-informed, favored colleague and friend, a man with a keen mind, quick wit, the patience to give all ideas and concerns a fair hearing, and the generalship to get things done. As Gary was himself a change agent and embraced risk-taking, he admired such qualities in others and was often a sponsor and internal champion of people and ideas that pushed boundaries. And if you needed to know anything about Ohio State’s football program, Gary was the man to go to.

In his message to OCLC staff on Monday, Jay Jordan called Gary Houk “an exceptional colleague and leader who contributed greatly to OCLC’s success.” I know Gary would have liked this well-deserved tribute to his person and his good work.

That I and my fellow IAGers, and all of our colleagues at OCLC shall miss Gary is an understatement. We mourn the passing of our friend and colleague. And we’ll keep Gary’s family in our thoughts and prayers.

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Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of knowing Gary through my work at BCR (one of several regional networks providing OCLC services). He was an overall nice guy. I admired and respected him. He listened, he really listened. He will be missed by all who knew him.

George said...

Gary will be missed by all of us. When I first started at OCLC, he was a wonderful mentor, helping me learn the ropes and to know what to take seriously and what to relax about. His loss is painful to all of us.

Karen said...

I have been an information professional for over 26 years and througout these year have worked with many OCLC products, services and staff (all excellent!).

While I did not know Mr. Houk personally, his leadership abilities were reflected well through all the OCLC staff.

My deepest sympathies to all who knew and worked with him. I will keep his family, loved ones and friends in my thoughts and prayers.

Karen Estrada, M.S.
Miami, Florida

Alice said...

I was laughing with Alane the other day, because one of my favorite Gary Houk moments was at ALA when we were putting on the skit that Alane had written about "Can this marriage be saved?" between a cataloger and a reference librarian...and Gary was Alane's VP at the time. So after the skit he gets up to introduce everyone. And I was fairly new at OCLC at the time. Maybe I'd been here a year or so and I was all of 26 years old. And Gary goes to introduce me, realizes he doesn't know my last name and tries to fake it. Gets it horribly wrong and the audience all erupts into laughter. To which he responds ever so gracefully, "I've always just known her as Alice!"
(And I should note--I was not in his division--so the fact he knew me at all speaks volumes to the personable guy he was.)

It was a classic OCLC moment, made even more poignant by his passing. We will miss him, that's for sure.