Dear Mr. Drabek,

I first met you during my sophomore year as a Computer Science student at the University of Arizona in 1988, where I had my first class with you.  I’m writing you to let you know how much of a positive impact you had on me.  I’ve taken what you’ve taught me and built a career on the lessons I learned from you.

You were very strict, very serious, and I respected your skill, your style, and your knowledge.  I remember focusing on what you had to say more than any professor I had.  I didn’t want to miss a word.

I remember anticipating your class more than any other, eagerly wanting to learn all the cool things you knew.  I learned a lot from you and it’s stayed with me – always.

One way you influence me every day is simply – coding style.  You were very careful about teaching the “right” way to code and pointing out the wrong way to code.  Your style still influences every line of code I write.  I now use a code analysis tool, ReSharper, to validate my work and every time I look up at the indicator in the editor and see what it needs to fix, I’m always happy when I see it’s only one or two improvements.  I feel like you made my brain ReSharp code as I develop it.

I came to you my senior year with an Independent Study project to write a Golf Handicapping Program on Microsoft Windows 3.0.  The first thing you said to me was – “Everyone here thinks Windows is a toy and will never go anywhere”.  I replied back, “Well sir, it’s not, I think it’s going to grow really fast”.  Too bad I didn’t have any money to buy Microsoft stock back then, but you agreed with me and you let me do it.  I remember showing you an early version of my work and the code behind Windows events and you nodding how clever it was.  I remember seeking your approval so much so I was so nervous delivering the final version of the software, and after taking you through it, I finally got a smile from you.  Moments like that could have gone either way, and who knows where chaos theory would have taken me had you not believed in what I was doing.

My success in that project motivated me in such a way, that 2 years after I graduated, after I moved to Silicon Valley, I convinced my company to port all the software from Motif to Windows, and I led the way.

In 1998, I started my first company, ememories.com, a photo sharing web site co-founded with fellow UofA CS alum Carlos Blanco.  Once I got the company funded, I bought us an awesome new 8U server from Dell, and when giving it a hostname, of course, I chose to name it after you: DRABEK.  Throughout the company’s life, all server requests flowed through a machine with your moniker proudly labeled in our data center.

Thanks for the impression you made on me.  Thank you for the teachings you gave me.  I really appreciate it and will never forget it.  You’re a great man, sir.

Sincerely,

Brett Morrison, Class of 1991, University of Arizona

  • Beautiful story. It’s amazing how much impact a person can have on one’s path in life. Sometimes I wonder myself where I would have been if I hadn’t met some of the people who had a huge positive impact on mine. You briefly mentioned chaos theory. I am a firm believer that mind & heart shapes reality within chaos, including attracting the right people. Which in your case was meeting this great professor. The reason I believe this is true is that even when I looked up to as a child to someone who told me that it’s better to become a 3D designer than a programmer or a marine soldier, or even someone who said computer game development is too difficult and unrealistic, my instinct strongly encouraged me to pickup programming and go for it. It’s what inspired me and drove me. I listened to my instinct. To be fair, my best friends encouraged me to believe in my own abilities instead of listening to naysayers.

    Nonetheless it’s important to recognize the people who made a big impact on ones life and be thankful, which your open letter reminded me of.
    Thank you for that 🙂

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