Remembering Stan McLaughlin

Stan in the ML Computer Room

Stan McLaughlin passed away peacefully on August 1, 2012 at his home in Broomfield CO.  He worked at UCAR/NCAR in the Computer Production Group of the Computational Information Systems Laboratory (CISL), beginning December 1976 and retiring June 2007.

Stan was a quiet man who did not volunteer much information about himself.  But if you worked around him and were observant, you would get some insights. 

For one thing, he was very hard-working. One colleague described him as "a mule when it came to work".  He was not a big man but he could load heavy stuff, like computers and printers, and wheel them around with ease. No part of his job suited him better than helping install a new supercomputer in the Mesa Lab Computer Room. In this he was a jack of all trades, assisting with moving vans and floor panels and wiring, barking orders like a traffic cop. 

He knew the location of every machine and piece of equipment in the computer room, and his knowledge extended to surplus items in Sam's Warehouse. He kept meticulous records stored in a large bank of filing cabinets.  Stan was tasked with keeping track of all CISL staff equipment and the way most people came to know him was by way of his frequent visits to verify that his records were up-to-date and accurate.

Before you learned those things, you likely would have run up against Stan's gruff exterior.  It seemed like he could growl at you for little or no reason at all. He didn't care much for internal politics, and sometimes when conversation went that way, he would pick up his unfinished lunch-tray in the Mesa Lab Cafeteria and leave the table abruptly. Otherwise though, he was amiable enough.

If you hung around Stan longer, you would see through a tough exterior covering a heart of gold. This was especially evident when he attended to staff and visitors as a member of the UCAR Medical Emergency Response Team.  When you saw him in that calling, first-aid satchel in hand, you might be reminded of a long-ago physician making a house call.  Some of the people he helped remember his comforting bedside manner years later. 

He had a deep voice, you could call it a radio voice, that was somehow easy to miss. One high-level administrator remembers her surprise when she watched a UCAR publicity video crediting Stan as narrator.  Later she told him his voice sounded suit-and-tie corporate, and he just smiled.

Sometimes you might hear him say "yada, yada, yada".  This was his way of calling out what he perceived to be a waste of time.  A colleague recalled seeing one of Stan's weekly progress reports comprised of those three words in sum total. This should not be mistaken for insolence: his immediate and 2nd-level and 3rd-level managers recognized his contributions often during his 30+ years of service to NCAR. Stan cared deeply for the organization, and he showed it consistently in dedicated work.

His hobbies, like his work at NCAR, had a unifying thread of seeing big projects or events safely through, from start to finish.  He was a passionate member of an officiating crew for the Sports Car Club of America. In 2006 he was designated as a Flag Chief for the Champ Car World Series.  Throughout the years he rode his Harley in the mountains and other places, often en masse, for various charity causes and for fun.  

Stan's life was celebrated by his sister and a few close friends at Brainard Lake, West of Boulder in the mountains dear to him, on August 24, 2012.