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Remembering Lee Dirks

The iConference and the entire information community lost a staunch friend and supporter with the tragic passing of Lee Dirks, Director for Portfolio Strategy at Microsoft Research Connections. Lee and his wife Judy Lew were killed in an automobile accident while vacationing in Peru in the summer of 2012.

Lee’s role at Microsoft enabled him to work closely with academic and research organizations to help solve some of the world’s most challenging scientific and social problems via collaborative research projects. Lee was well known to many iConference attendees, as Microsoft Research has sponsored the iConference since its inception in 2005, and Lee was a frequent and very active participant and presenter.

Lee championed the tremendous potential of information schools within Microsoft; he is the reason iSchools are well represented at Microsoft’s annual faculty summit, and saw to it that the event concluded with a meeting of the iCaucus deans. One of Lee’s final collaborations with the iSchools organization was the creation of the Social Media Expo, a student project competition held in conjunction with the iConference.

A native of Texas, Lee attended Trinity University and earned a Master of Science in Library and Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, an iCaucus member-institution. Lee became Microsoft’s first archivist in 1996, and rose rapidly within the company ranks. Outside of Microsoft, Lee was also involved in education and development issues, serving on the boards of the University of Washington’s Libraries’ Council of Advocates and the Washington Preservation Initiative. He was a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Washington Information School, also an iCaucus member-institution.

Lee and Judy met in 1996. Judy, who also worked at Microsoft, held an MBA from the University of Michigan. The couple’s trip to Peru was to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. Lee and Judy are survived by daughters, Esmé and Lila. Those wishing to honor the memories of Lee and Judy may do so with a donation to Safe Crossings, a non-profit that provided counseling and emotional support to Esmé and Lila following their loss.

Lee will be remembered for his passion, friendship, and devotion to the field. To honor his memory, the iConference will now present the Lee Dirks Award for Best Paper to the paper deemed the best submission each year. This award will serve as a fitting and lasting tribute to our much-loved friend and colleague.




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