Roger R. Flynn, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information and co-founder of its undergraduate information science program, died June 6, 2018 at age 79.
After earning his Ph.D. at Pitt in 1978, he joined the faculty and helped to develop undergraduate information science education at the school. He co-coordinated the new program with his wife, Ida Moretti Flynn, from 1979-1983, directing it himself after she passed away. He also was an early manager of the school’s computer laboratories.
He wrote the textbook “An Introduction to Information Science” (1987) and served as editor-in-chief of the four-volume Computer Science encyclopedia (2002).
Faculty member Michael B. Spring saw Flynn in action for 25 years, as they had adjacent offices.
“He was the finest teacher I have ever seen,” Spring said. “He relished helping people who had difficulty understanding the fundamentals of computer science.”
And there was no limit to the amount of time Flynn was willing to commit, Spring added.
“It would be very hard for you to be in the building any time between 7 in the morning and 10 at night and not run into him sitting in the hallway with a student,” Spring said. “Until he died, he was teaching two courses a term, three terms a year.”
Spring called Flynn “a very kind man, too, but he held students to standards. You didn’t want to lie to him or try to get away with stuff.” For those students willing to work, Spring added, “he would give you as many hours as you could consume.”
Flynn also was dedicated to teaching information science to inmates at the State Correctional Institute-Pittsburgh, otherwise known as Western State Penitentiary, in the 1980s and ’90s.
Jim Williams, Flynn’s teaching colleague until Williams’ retirement in 2001, also had Flynn as a student and recalls him as “a very bright, intelligent young man.” As department chair, Williams sat in on Flynn’s classes and was “amazed” at his ability to aid students: “He would come up with ideas about research projects that nobody would think of.”
Born May 11, 1939 in Chicago, Flynn earned a B.A. in philosophy from Villanova in 1962 and an M.S.T. in computer science from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1973. He published and presented widely during his many years at Pitt.
Flynn was predeceased by his wife and by his brother, Robert, and is survived by sons Anthony and wife Gina Godfrey, and Christopher and wife Kelly, as well as his four grandchildren, Flynn and Zedueh Godfrey and Emerson and Logan Flynn.
A memorial service will be held Aug. 25, at a location to be announced, followed by interment in Homewood Cemetery. Contributions may be made to the Ida M. Flynn Memorial Award through the Office of Institutional Advancement, 412-624-5800 (http://www.giveto.pitt.edu/), or to the Epilepsy Foundation of Vermont, 802-775-1686 (http://epilepsyvt.org/).