Thanks for the memories: Four UMSI faculty to retire

The person known as the “Father of the Internet.” The library science guru who led the cataloguing of the Vatican archives. The researcher-educator who invents games that are fun while also teaching students how to conduct library research.

These descriptions only partially credit the lengthy, noteworthy careers of four University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) faculty who are retiring this year.

Professors Doug Van Houweling, Francis Blouin and Karen Markey will be honored at a retirement reception Monday, April 9, beginning at 3 p.m. in North Quad 2435. Professor George Furnas is also retiring this year, though he will not be attending the reception.

These four UMSI faculty represent more than a century of combined service at UMSI. Quantifying their actual contributions to UMSI over the course of their careers is much more difficult to calculate.

The departing faculty have expressed excitement for the new chapters in their lives, but also tremendous gratitude to UMSI. 

Karen Markey

“Wow!” This is how Markey, UMSI professor of information, began when asked to reflect on her time at UMSI.

She went on to add, “How fortunate I’ve been to spend three-quarters of my 40-year career at UMSI. I value my colleagues here at SI and have had special ones along the way.

“I’ll miss our amazing staff who are too numerous to mention here. I am really proud of our students who ware so excited to be here, excel at their studies, and take advantage of the many unique opportunities we have here.”

Markey developed the BiblioBouts Project, an online social game that teaches students how to conduct library research while they go about the business of completing their assigned papers.

Markey mentioned many UMSI deans, former and current colleagues, and UMSI students-turned-alumni whom she will remember.

But she’s ready to retire, adding that “during spring migration, I’ll be birding like a madwoman.”

Francis Blouin

Francis Blouin, Jr., professor of history and professor emeritus of information, was the long-time Director of Bentley Historical Library; he also led the Vatican archives project, a 20-year-long endeavor.

Reflecting upon retirement, Blouin quoted a good friend, who told him, “It is better to retire too early than too late.” He and his wife plan to travel and enjoy plenty of time with family.

Having said that, however, Blouin had glowing words for his time at Michigan.
“It has been an extraordinary privilege to be associated with U-M for such a long time. Every day was interesting, challenging, and new. I was always learning. Also, I came to appreciate how important it has been to be associated with a great university. The doors that it opened to me were beyond anything I could have imagined.

“I am particularly grateful for my long association with UMSI. The school I came to in 1978 is very different than it is today. To be part of that transformation was especially gratifying. I shall always appreciate that the leadership of the School, rather than destroying its past in the process of transformation, identified clear strengths and built on and added to those strengths. The results have been nothing short of spectacular.”

Douglas Van Houweling

Douglas Van Houweling, UMSI professor of information, has been inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame for his seminal work in the development of what became “the World Wide Web,” i.e., the Internet.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have played a role in information technology here at the University and nationally over the last 33 years,” Van Houweling says. “The University has enabled me to serve in a diverse set of roles as the IT revolution has unfolded. I am deeply grateful for those opportunities.”

During his time at U-M, Van Houweling has served as UMSI associate dean for research and innovation; U-M Dean for Academic Outreach and Vice Provost for Information and Technology; and U-M Vice Provost for Information Technology. He plans to continue to conduct research and to be engaged in some University projects.

George Furnas

George Furnas, UMSI professor of information, focused his research on human-computer interaction. He helped found the School of Information in the 1990s. He has served as UMSI Associate Dean for Academic Strategy, and is an ACM Fellow. He helped pioneer Collaborative Filtering, invented Latent Semantic Indexing and the theory of Generalized Fisheye Views, among many other contributions.

“Working alongside such an inspired and inspiring interdisciplinary group of people to create the U-M School of Information was one of the greatest experiences of my professional life,” Furnas says.

“Thanks to you all!”

 - Sheryl James, UMSI PR Specialist