Carnegie Mellon University
In Memoriam: Roger Sorrells

In Memoriam: Roger Sorrells

Roger Sorrells was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, on December 15, 1936, the son of B.J. and Maurine C. Sorrells. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics (1960) and a Master’s degree in Mathematics (1962) with a thesis entitled “Number Sequences” from the University of Texas. In 1961, he married Cynthia Hammond Wickizer, whom he later divorced. They had a daughter Alexandra. He taught mathematics at San Antonio College and Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) in San Marcos.

After San Antonio College purchased a PDP11 computer and allowed him to work on it, he became a computer scientist, working on a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Texas A&M University from 1971 to 1982. In 1978, he joined the TAMU Computing Center where he eventually became the head of the Help Desk. There, he recruited and trained students to answer questions and assisted many graduate students in troubleshooting their computer programs. According to one student, sitting across from Roger with a program in hand was the ultimate key to success in his doctoral program. In 1991, he received the President’s Meritorious Service Award and in 1992, retired from his position. He continued to assist with the World Shakespeare Bibliography. He was active in Mothers against Drunk Drivers, Compassionate Friends, and the Lions Club.

He and Gloriana St. Clair came together at Texas A&M in 1984. They subsequently travelled extensively in projects related to digital libraries in general, and the Million Book Project in particular. His interests included walking, biking, hiking, spelunking, snorkeling, reading, nature, the Shakers, Chautauqua, science, and politics. At Carnegie Mellon University, he was a founding member of the Highlands Circle.

Roger died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 2, 2011, from Advanced Stage Parkinson’s disease.

His daughter Alexandra predeceased him when a recidivist drunk driver killed her on New Year’s Eve 1982. His longtime partner Gloriana St. Clair; his brother Mike Sorrells; his dear friends Hal Manzke, Darla Comeaux, and Pam Ferguson; and their families survive him. A host of friends, colleagues, and co-conspirators from hiking and biking, his book groups, the World Shakespeare Bibliography, Carnegie Mellon University libraries, the Million Book Project, and Texas A&M University have lost a great friend.

The Roger Sorrells Engineering & Science Library was named and dedicated on April 17, 2012, thanks to a very generous endowment from Gloriana St. Clair.

Indicate Friends of the Library and Additional Comments: Sorrells.

Banner photos
from left:
Gloriana and Roger in Australia
Roger in the kitchen
Roger, Darla and Gloriana at Chautauqua
Gloriana and Roger in India