My friend Rolland “Slim” Cummings passed away of a heart attack this afternoon. He was the director of Instructional Media at Pittsburg State University. His wife Maeve is a professor in the PSU College of Business and the coauthor of a best-selling MIS textbook for which I rewrote the networking chapter.
Slim built the video distribution network at PSU, including a video switcher of his own design and construction, to route TV channels and videotapes to individual classrooms. He was active in amateur radio and electronic design, and was a close friend of the late Jack Buffington and mentor to his son and my good friend, Cort. Slim was always the one to test every option or method, not settling for good enough, but insisting on finding the best.
He was also opinionated and bullheaded, and could hold a grudge for years. Long before I knew him, he and Maeve had an Apple Computer dealership. Something happened to sour that relationship; and much later, when Slim gave me a couple of sticks of surplus RAM, he said he wouldn’t have given them to me if he’d realized I was going to put them into a Mac. But he showed respect with equal intensity when he was treated fairly, as I saw time and time again when I worked with him at the university.
Slim was generous with his knowledge and his resources. He spent a lifetime collecting electronics supplies and surplus, and he was always ready to share them when they were needed. He slowed down several years ago and had started cleaning house and discarding old equipment, sending carloads of mostly junk home with me. My bench power supply, my function generator, my gigantic bare copper PC board, and the panel meter I used in my battery meter project are just a few of many supplies Slim gave me.
I last saw Slim just over two weeks ago, on a rare trip back to Pittsburg for an unrelated conference at the university. I joined Cort for a visit up to Instructional Media, and we helped Slim haul equipment to the pile for the annual university surplus auction (and ourselves left with another trunkload). Just this weekend, I emailed Slim to ask about a giant heatsink I’d given him a few years ago as a bit of a joke, and he said I was welcome to it; was I going to be back that way or should he ship it?
I wish I’d been able to go back to pick it up from him myself.