Remembering Bela Gazdy


Bela Gadzy.

Bela Gazdy passed away on May 9. I remember him as a person of great intellect and sharp wit. He was a competent and effective Unix administrator.

Bela began his Emory career as a postdoctoral associate in the Chemistry department in 1986. Bela held a PhD in physics and was the author of a large number of academic articles:

Bela also maintained some of the department’s computational resources, in particular the STARDENT TITAN Vector computer.  According to Professor Joel Bowman, “It was a beautiful piece of hardware, which Bela maintained and also used for vectorized computations. With the establishment of the Emerson Center for Scientific Computation in 1991, Bela became the staff member of that center. At that time, the center had roughly six RISC 6000 IBM workstations and Bela’s job was to keep them in communication with each other, to install and maintain scientific software, and to provide support to the users. His original login screen is still used.”

Joining Emory libraries in 1996, Bela’s support and solutions made the work of application programmers shine.


Bela and his favorite cat.

Under Bela, the library servers (Euclid) performed reliably because he installed the right monitoring tools; he placed the necessary security features, but he was not paranoid about hackers and security breaches. Many years ago, he argued that a determined and skillful hacker could break into any server, and he also maintained that the government could exploit software or hardware gaps to monitor any server.

Bela was born in Budapest, Hungary and his early years in the eastern European bloc informed his view of world affairs and domestic politics. He was skeptical of the power of the state and of hierarchies. Often, he invited me to read two of his favorite journalists: John Pilger and Alexander Cockburn.


Bela, his classic ’62 Cadillac, and his trademark work clothes!

As many of us remember, his outfit of shirt, shorts, belt and suspenders was his “trademark.” Someone observed that the belt and suspenders “made evident that Bela was a true system administrator.” Few noticed that Bela wore long pants exactly during the Winter season, from the Winter Solstice to the Spring Equinox. I couldn’t persuade him that he perform the outfit change by following the astronomical time, though.

Bela loved fixing vintage cars and he owned and maintained two Cadillacs. I remember that during the last presidential campaign, I learned one day that Mitt Romney also owned two Cadillacs. The following morning I walked into Bela’s cubicle and told him: “Bela, you and Mitt Romney have one thing in common. Can you guess?” Bela, the master of rejoinder, replied, “Well…each of us has only one wife.”

Bela will also be missed by the Chemistry graduates who told me that he was a caring mentor, and by us who were fortunate to receive his technical support and enjoy his great sense of humor and friendship.

His IT colleagues at the library have christened a new Unix server as “Bela” to honor their friend.

[Ed. note: the following audio clip is an interview we did of Bela for his bio during the LITS reorg.]

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