Our Memories with Stéfan

I love showing and sharing Stéfan’s tools. Just last week, I fed one of my client’s books through Bubblelines. It was her first experience with any type of textual analysis and she squealed with joy in seeing her words represented in such a beautiful way.

Milena Radzikowska

I came to McGill for my masters in Digital Humanities because of him. On the third day of my arrival, I met him at his office. He asked me about my past studies and engagements. Then, he took me to the DH lab and meeting room. We went for lunch the following week. We talked about our families. I knew that Professor Stephanie is his better-half.

Nobody can describe his humbleness. He was a complete human being. As a Research Assistant, he told me to work on The Art of Literary Text Analysis (ALTA). I worked on the broken part of ALTA. I tried to correct the Python codes myself somehow. What I was unable to correct was supposed to work together. Before COVID-19, we used to meet in a cafe near his home. He meant so much to me. Despite my weaknesses in the field, he used to listen to every words that I say and mentor me in so many ways. He was supporting me the every way he can.

On August 6, We were supposed to talk and I waited him on Skype but there was no response. I thought he might be busy in some other projects. And I just texted and stayed quiet. But he left us behind and went for the eternal sleep. The next day, I learnt it through Professor Cecily’s tweet about him. I could not stop my tear. Let’s pray for him. His departed soul may Rest In Peace. God bless him. May God give enough strength to Professor Stephanie and two beautiful daughters to bear irremediable loss.

I am all guided and inspired by him. He raised my interest in Data Visualization and Text Mining. I wish I could carry his legacy.

Bal Krishna Dhakal

Many people took to social media to share their stories about Stéfan. In this post, we share, with permission, a wonderful tribute from Cathy Nygren (@broomgrass).

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Un informaticien au soleil : C’est le sourire de Stéfan lorsque nous lui parlons d’un problème, d’une incompréhension, d’un blocage sur le site qui a ajouté l’amitié au rapport professionnel. Un grand sourire, léger, confiant, ouvert. D’abord pour Satorbase mais ensuite pour TOUCHER, tout était simplement intéressant et possible. Je regrette de ne pas l’avoir photographié à Victoria, sur la plage de Cadboro Bay après le colloque Amitié, sous le soleil, m’expliquant TOUCHER comme si je pouvais tout comprendre. Merci, cher Stéfan.

Les outils développés par Stéfan ont changé mon horizon. Grâce à Satorbase et TOUCHER, moi, incompétente en matière de programmation et initialement sceptique en matière de lecture automatisée, j’ai compris que les Humanités Numériques portaient d’immenses possibilités pour l’analyse littéraire. Je ne suis pas vraiment plus compétente mais je sais maintenant que cela me touche et que ces bases ouvrent un avenir. Je lui dois, outre ses outils, la meilleure des introductions : sa rassurante et amicale légèreté quand il disait “Cela doit être possible, on essaiera”.

Hélène Cazes, University of Victoria /SATOR

Sad and shocking news. My heart goes out to his family and friends. Still, one can feel a little envious that, in his much too-short life, Stéfan has achieved so much, and this is how I will remember him. I’ll miss his sweet smile, but I’m smiling at all the good he’s done.

Jan Rybicki

I met Prof. Sinclair in a DH graduate seminar at McGill, during which I developed a great passion for DH. Prof. Sinclair encouraged me to learn how to code and introduced me to many tools and topics that helped me define my academic path. He later became a member of my supervisory committee and my conversations with him were key in the development of my doctoral research project. I also had the fortune of being Prof. Sinclair’s teaching assistant during two semesters, in a course called Understanding Digital and Social Media. I now have the opportunity to teach this same course myself. I do not see how I could fill his shoes, but everything I learned from him will always guide me. I will give my all to make him proud. He was an outstanding professor, a supportive mentor, a brilliant researcher, and a kind human being. I will miss him.


I met Stéfan just once in the Design + DH workshop in June 2020 that was held online on Zoom, but since starting my MA program in Digital Humanities in the University of Alberta, his name came up regularly. I was paired with him in a breakout room and we had to discuss some design ideas and I was happy to finally ‘meet’ him. We had a great discussion and he patiently tried to understand my ideas which were not fully formed and which I had some difficulties describing. What I appreciated most was his interest in my studies. As we discussed about my research interests in the DH I could feel genuine concern and a desire to help from him. It was nice talking with him. I am happy to have met him.

My first introduction to text analysis tools was with Voyant-Tools. We will always remember him each time we use it.

Bennett K. Tchoh

I met Stéfan at several DH conferences and I had many occasion to recognize the importance of his work in computational text analysis. I have always considered Stéfan’s lasting achievements both in development and methodology for computer-assisted interpretation in textual studies as a constant and authoritative point of reference.

Dino Buzzetti

Stéfan was a dear colleague and helped DARIAH-DE and TextGrid.de to integrate voyant-tools into the TextGrid-Repository (https://textgridrep.org/docs/voyant). We thank him so much – and send our condolences to his family.

Mostly, the community of literary studies in Germany and other disciplines using Voyant-tools via TextGrid-Rep, many students and teachers express their gratitude.

DARIAH-DE Coordination Office / DARIAH National Coordinator Germany

(Nanette Rissler-Pipka)

What beautiful and moving tributes here to our departed colleague and friend. It’s astounding to read in list form all of Stéfan’s achievements. But then he always plunged right into things with such energy and enthusiasm–not to mention determination. I was unbelievably lucky to meet Stéfan when he began as an assistant professor at the U of A, and I vividly recall what an invigorating and inspiring force he was for students and professors alike. Every encounter with Stéfan left one feeling better, brighter, and more capable. I loved his sense of humour and mischief, too. Here’s a photo of him I cherish from a dinner party in 2002, when he revealed to us his ukulele-playing skills. Turns out he was in a ukulele club as a schoolboy in Calgary. “And not just any ukulele group,” he pointed out, eyes a-twinkle. “We travelled.” It was a privilege and a blessing to know Stéfan, and my heart goes out to his loved ones and all his friends and colleagues in this sad time.

Maryanne Wynne

Je me souviens de la journée que j’ai passée avec Stéfan à Lisbonne après le colloque de la SATOR à Coimbra en 2010. il a fait horriblement chaud à Lisbonne ce jour-là (dans les 35C au moins) mais après le colloque à Coimbra, c’était la seule journée disponible et on a traversé la ville de long en large. La journée a été très agréable mais à la fin de la journée, la bière à la terrasse était particulièrement bonne. À ce colloque, il m’a montré son nouveau jouet, qui venait tout juste de sortir, l’íPad.

J’ai travaillé de près avec lui dans le cadre des projets de la SATOR et ensuite dans le cadre du projet TOUCHER. J’ai aussi travaillé un peu avec sa mère, Lise, dans un projet à Calgary au début des années 2000 pour aider les enseignants à intégrer la technologie dans l’enseignement du français.

Daniel Maher, Université de Calgary

On behalf of the DARIAH EU community, I can only say that even for those of us who did not know Stefan personally, it would be hard to overstate the transformative nature of his contributions. This includes, but is not limited to, his many publications and of course the Voyant suite that brings so many to start a journey into DH. His loss will be felt keenly by the entire international community of DH, surely even more so by his close colleagues, friends and family. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

Jennifer Edmond, President of the Board of Directors, DARIAH ERIC

I was lucky to share an airport shuttle once with Stéfan and another more senior scholar. He folded me into the conversation – me the new guy – and showed real interest in what I was doing in the kindest and funniest ways. Most of the trip was spent laughing.

Stéfan found out I was applying for an internal award at my institution. He wrote a letter to the committee – entirely out of the blue! – to help them understand my work, and to support my application. I got the award. Many of my colleagues here use Voyant in their classes, not necessarily realizing its genesis or the level of support Stéfan provided; but through Voyant, Stéfan changed what history could be for hundreds of our students. Stéfan’s playful approach to the work, his behind-the-scenes collaboration with so many of us… he was a transformative figure, who opened up so many possibilities for us all.


DH2011 Fun Run

I always appreciated Stéfan’s dedication to the most serious sorts of fun, including a particular enthusiasm for the annual DH conference fun run. I love his wry comment, preserved on the conference Twitter stream, about the inaugural run we planned for the 2011 conference at my home campus of Stanford: “turns out ‘fun run’ is just a figure of speech – there’s a hill in the middle!” It would be easy to roll one’s eyes at focusing on such a triviality a time of loss — a funny remark on a fun activity — but I realize that Stéfan’s enthusiasm for serious and collegial fun of all kinds was a huge part of his scholarly practice. The examples are too numerous to list, but the theme is clear: his most serious work was never, ever self-serious.

Stéfan was the first of my colleagues to nominate or second me for office in one of the DH organizations. In this first instance, when I was mostly unknown in the community, he nominated me to stand for election to the Board of the European DH organization (ALLC back then): I was part of small plot by Stéfan and others to help break down international borders in our pre-ADHO world. I lost that election. He nominated me again the next year; I lost again. He taught me how important and cool it is to sometimes lose an election. And he inspired me with his deep belief in the possibility of a DH without borders.

Glen Worthey

I am so saddened to learn about Stéfan’s passing. We only worked together for a short time but in that period, he left an impression on me as a kind, thoughtful, and conscientious colleague who was devoted to his family. He was welcoming to those of us who were new faculty and also helped shepherd through our first cohort of MA students with diligence and good humour. My heart goes out to his family and friends at this difficult time. He will be missed.

Faiza Hirji

Stéfan supported my research like no other, agreeing to be my sponsor for two fellowships at McGill. Even though I did not get either and never met him in person, I will strive to continue to promote his work and teach his tools to students all over the world.

Stéfan’s work was an important precursor to mine, and his feedback and support were always very much appreciated.

Natalie Berkman