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McGovern recalled as 'a catalyst of the computer industry'

March 20, 2014 04:12 PM ET

Running a weekly wasn't easy in the pre-Web days.

One year, a major snowstorm shut down Boston, where Computerworld was based. Staffers were "pulling an all-nighter" to get the publication out when McGovern arrived at the office and asked, "What can I do to help?" Lundell recalled. "I said go get pizza, and he did."

Lundell believes that Computerworld helped empower data processing workers and gave them the confidence to think of themselves as IT professionals.

McGovern at CW 45 event
Pat McGovern helps Computerworld celebrate the magazine's 40th anniversary in 2007. (Image: Sharon Machlis)

In 1983, George Colony founded Forrester Research as a competitor to IDG. Despite that, McGovern offered business advice.

"It just struck me," said Colony, now Forrester's CEO, "how magnanimous and helpful he was."

McGovern "was one of the catalysts of the computer industry in the United States," said Colony, adding that, in his various efforts, McGovern "was building the intellectual and knowledge base that everyone was riding. Essentially, he's a massive figure."

Paul Gillin, editor of Computerworld from 1987 to 1999, remembers McGovern well.

"Leo Durocher said nice guys finish last. I always thought McGovern proved that wisdom wrong," wrote Gillin in an email. "One of the most remarkable things about Pat is that everybody loved him. I honestly can't remember anyone ever saying a cross word about him. Pat was honest, compassionate and relentlessly optimistic."

One thing that McGovern did was to send out complimentary memos on stationery adorned with little rainbows. The memos "were an IDG fixture," said Gillin. "He read the publications thoroughly each week and fired off several congratulatory notes each week. People would pin those notes to their cubes like trophies. I still have mine!"

"Shortly before I joined IDG in 1982, I read a profile in the Boston Globe that said that McGovern personally visited every U.S. employee to deliver the Christmas bonus every year," said Gillin. "I couldn't believe it, but a few months later there he was. We used to prepare months in advance for the visits, assembling profiles of each employee. Sometimes he needed the prompting but for longtime employees he always could pull stories out of his elephantine memory. He had amazing recall."

McGovern, said Gillin, "was exceedingly modest man." To illustrate, he recalled McGovern chatting with a Computerworld staffer who mentioned that she was planning to paint her house.

"Pat offered to come over and help. 'I'm a great paint scraper,' he said. I have no doubt that if she had taken him up on his offer he would have shown up, scraper in hand," said Gillin.

Mari Keefe, Computerworld editorial project manager, contributed to this story.

covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at Twitter @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed Thibodeau RSS. His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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