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Subject: "Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"     Previous Topic | Next Topic
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Gryphonadmin
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Nov-09-20, 09:29 PM (EST)
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"Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"
 
   I've just received the news that Professor Howard Segal, my undergraduate advisor and one of my two MA thesis co-advisors, died this afternoon.

Howard's been battling a rare blood cancer I've forgotten the name of for the past few years, but the email I got from our department chair (by way of my other thesis co-advisor) doesn't mention his cause of death, only that he died at home surrounded by family. The last I heard from him, his cancer treatment was going well, but we all know that kind of thing can turn back on you fast. I knew he had other problems with his health as well, most notably that he'd suffered a broken back in a fall over the summer that had required another lengthy hospitalization, and can't have done his recovery from either the cancer or the traumatic treatments therefor any good. He'd already made the decision to retire from teaching at the end of this semester.

Given how shabbily he was treated by the University during his illness, I can't say that I blame him. The first semester in which he was undergoing active treatment for his illness, when any employer with a shred of decency would have done whatever it took to reduce a valued senior employee's workload, the University increased his, pleading the department's chronic staff shortage. As a result, he had to defer the part of the treatment that required lengthy hospitalization in Boston until after the school year, and kept himself going by visiting a hospital in Bangor three times a week to have blood that actually worked pumped in to supplement his own malfunctioning supply.

Here is his faculty page at UMaine's website, for however long that remains in place. He also has a Wikipedia page, which I cannot bring myself to edit. I doubt he knew he had a Wikipedia page; despite being a professor of the history of technology, he wasn't particularly computer-savvy. Like many members of his generation, he took that as something of a mark of pride.

It's customary at this point to say nice things, to the point where those nice things are usually not particularly credible, but Howard was terrific. Despite being a full professor of history at a flagship state university, one of the very few American academics in his field (the history of science, technology, and utopianism), and an occasional TV-documentary talking head, at heart he was still a Jewish kid from Philadelphia, complete with the accent and the knack for lacerating sarcasm—but never sarcasm directed at anyone who was actually in the room. He was savage about institutions rather than individual people, with the exception of the Hon. Paul R. LePage, the once and potentially future worst-ever Governor of the State of Maine, whom he loathed with the fury of a million suns. (This was one of many kindred alignments that made working with him such a pleasure for me.)

He loved teaching but detested the endless bureaucratic bullshit involved in tenured academia, and he wasn't shy about expressing either of those things. It was easy to get him started about labor relations, the state and federal government's policies regarding higher education, and/or the way the University of Maine System managed its affairs, which was the kind of show you wanted a bucket of popcorn for. And yet, I don't think he would have considered doing anything else. Knee-deep in red tape and superfluous management or no, it was his vocation.

One afternoon during the semester I was doing my undergraduate capstone paper, he took me aside and asked me to please enroll for the graduate seminar he was scheduled to teach the following semester. When I pointed out that I wouldn't graduate until the following year, he said, "Ah, that doesn't matter, you can handle it. You're so [REDACTED] smart." It was the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me that had an f-bomb in it. :)

I wonder if he ever got around to reading that copy of Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution I loaned him. I hope so.

I already knew I wasn't going to finish my MA before the end of his career. I keenly regret that I didn't finish it before the end of his life, either. I'm going to miss him a bunch.

--G.
-><-
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020 Astynax Nov-09-20 1
  RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020 Terminus Est Nov-09-20 2
  RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020 MuninsFire Nov-10-20 3
  RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020 Gryphonadmin Nov-10-20 4
  RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020 Gryphonadmin Jan-09-21 5
  RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020 Gryphonadmin Mar-02-21 6

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Astynax
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1022 posts
Nov-09-20, 11:27 PM (EST)
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1. "RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"
In response to message #0
 
   No hyperbole intended, he sounds like the sort of professor that makes college worth attending. Condolences to you and all who mourn him. May his memory be a blessing.


-={(Astynax)}=-
"Also, fuck cancer, and fuck 2020."


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Terminus Est
Member since Nov-5-04
536 posts
Nov-09-20, 11:39 PM (EST)
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2. "RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"
In response to message #0
 
   I never had that sort of teacher, sadly, but it hurts my heart to hear that one of his kind is lost to us.


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MuninsFire
Member since Mar-27-07
438 posts
Nov-10-20, 00:12 AM (EST)
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3. "RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"
In response to message #0
 
   Sincerest condolences. He sounds like someone whom I'd have liked to meet.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea


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Gryphonadmin
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21087 posts
Nov-10-20, 01:34 AM (EST)
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4. "RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"
In response to message #0
 
   I should have noted in my initial post:

If you're interested in Howard's work, or just feel like kicking a tiny bit of cash toward his family, this is his author page at Amazon, which aggregates all of his books that are currently in print, and here is a link to Technology in America, the textbook he co-authored, and which he spent his last sabbatical, in 2017, revising for the Third Edition.

For the record, I don't get anything from this, those aren't affiliate links or anything. I just reckon an academic's most fitting monument is his work.

--G.
-><-
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.


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Gryphonadmin
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21087 posts
Jan-09-21, 00:16 AM (EST)
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5. "RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"
In response to message #0
 
   I keenly regret that I won't have the chance to discuss these strange and stupid days with Howard. Boy howdy, would he have had some Things to Say about this shit.

--G.
-><-
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.


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Gryphonadmin
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21087 posts
Mar-02-21, 01:35 AM (EST)
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6. "RE: Howard P. Segal, 1948–2020"
In response to message #0
 
   A professional obituary of Howard was published in the most recent issue of Perspectives in History, the American Historical Association's magazine. It was written by Prof. Alan I. Marcus of Mississippi State University, his co-author on Technology in America: A Brief History (the third edition of which Howard completed during what turned out to be his last sabbatical from the University of Maine), a couple of years ago).

--G.
-><-
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.


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