I was trying to figure out what to say, and luckily I was speaking to a student of my dad’s who couldn’t be here. And he wrote a tribute, and I’m going to read that. I think it’s particularly fitting for me to do so, since I know so many people here probably have the student’s perspective on my dad—and I grew up with him—so I had a slightly different take on things, despite never having had the benefit of being in one of his classes formally.
The thing that really permeated his whole life was his enthusiasm in creativity, as well as opening my eyes to meeting all of the wonderful people here and through the years. One of the people I remember very clearly from Syracuse was one of his students, Steve Chomyszak, and I’m going to read the tribute that he wrote. He couldn’t be here today, although he wanted to, and he is here in spirit I’m sure.
“Rolf Faste lived, breathed, ate, drank, slept, walked, and talked creativity. He not only sought to understand it, and to teach it, he sought to tame it, and harness it, and instill it in his students, and his peers, and most of all, his family. He knew how to nurture it, and amplify it. He knew that creativity was part planning, part happenstance, and sometimes just part unavoidable. He knew that creativity permeates every single facet of our lives from the mundane to the esoteric.
“Solving a challenging problem often leads to dead ends and brick walls. Rolf knew this better than anybody; it is the nature of creativity. He also knew that this was a good thing, not a bad thing, as the solution is simply waiting on the other side of the wall. The creative challenge then becomes how to get to the other side. The conceptual brute can simply smash the wall. The agile can scramble over the top, while the swift can run around it. Rolf knew that no one way is better or worse than the other, and that every individual has a different way of getting to the other side of the wall. He was keenly aware that the creative mechanism differs from person to person, and is individually fluid. It could seep under the wall and percolate to the top just as well as any other method.
“Rolf’s mission wasn’t to proselytize on how to get to the other side of the wall, it was to get each individual to discover and understand their own creative method for doing so. He understood that even the process of discovering was as individual as a fingerprint. He would teach when it was necessary to be taught, he would offer guidance when the path was unclear, and he would provide opportunity and tools to those who preferred to learn on their own.
“Rolf knew that sometimes the most creative people come from the least likely origins. He found it irresistible to admit students to his program whose origins were on both extremes of the bell curve. This was risky, but risktaking is a fundamental thread of the creative fabric. He taught that risks sometimes lead to mistakes, but that mistakes are enlightening and should not be considered as failure. In fact, you can learn twice as much from a mistake as you can from a success. A mistake first teaches you what doesn’t work, then it leads you to what does. The best mistakes arise out of taking risks. The best successes arise out of making mistakes.
“If necessity is the mother of invention, then iteration is the mother of perfection. One can use weakness to identify strength. One can find simplicity within the complex. With ones creative eyes wide open, each iteration on a solution yields the real potential to identify an even better solution.
“Rolf focused on all aspects of creativity. He was not at all bashful about informing his students”—and I’ll add, his sons—“that their first ideas would be little more than intellectual junk, and maybe their fourth or fifth ideas would be no better. But by the time you’ve solved a problem twelve different ways, something would rise to the surface and clearly shine above the rest.
“Creativity is positive energy. It represents the best of the best, of what humankind is all about. And this is the energy that Rolf lived and breathed and ate and drank. As I say goodbye to Rolf, I say goodbye to my mentor. I say goodbye to my friend”—and I’ll add my father—“who will forever remain in my memory, the very best of the best.”
90 Peter Coutts Circle
Stanford, CA 94305