On Monday, October 30, 2023, my friend and colleague Bill Kamphuis died, after a 3-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. The funeral home’s obituary was brief, and the only others I could find were essentially copies. So I felt moved to write a personal reflection about how he influenced my own life and career.
I likely met Bill sometime in late 1997, when my family and I started attending First Christian Reformed Church in Kingston, Ontario. I likely first saw him when he was playing the church organ, an unpaid role shared by several parishioners. I’m not especially social, so I didn’t interact with him much, but I do recall a general impression that he was a kind and thoughtful man.
I didn’t really get to know him until the late 2010’s, when my wife and I stayed at the same bed-and-breakfast a couple of years in a row for the Stratford Festival. In between attending performances, we would chat about a wide variety of things, but what I remember most clearly are his thoughts about Queen’s and his career there.
Bill’s subject was coastal engineering (which strikes me as wonderfully apt, for someone born in the Netherlands). Some of his academic accomplishments are listed at his Queen’s web page, but the thing that influenced me the most was that he wrote a textbook, Introduction To Coastal Engineering And Management. The first edition was published in 2000, the second in 2010, and the third in 2020. Bill told me that when he had taught the material for several years, one of his students encouraged him to write a book about it. I found his thoughts about textbook-writing to be inspirational. I had published one on Software Engineering back in 1988, but a senior Computing professor discouraged me from following up with revisions; it was a “poor choice of priorities,” apparently. He may have been right; within a few years massive tomes would replace the kind of concise work I preferred to write. Bill re-affirmed the idea that writing textbooks is a valuable contribution, and inspired me to start a monograph that maybe I can actually complete now that I’m about to retire.
If it’s every published, I’m going to dedicate it to Bill.