Lance Williams

Obituary
6 entries | 2 photos
  • "I count Lance among my best friends, both in the sense of..."
    - Marilyn Brune
  • "A beautiful man,with a beautiful wife and two fine sons."
    - Bob Santini
  • "Beautifully written and balm for knew he was a genius,..."
  • "Dear Sean and Family, I've been out of town and just read..."
    - Jan Brighton
  • "Lance was one of my oldest and dearest friends, from the..."
    - Helen "Hendle" Pendleton Rumbaut
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It is with profound sadness that we share in the loss of Lance Joseph Williams PhD, who passed away on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 at the age of 67. Lance was born and bred in the heart of Lawrence, Kansas.

Lance was a giant in the field of computer graphics and a gentle giant in life. Professionally he was recognized for his fundamental ideas, pioneering artistic contributions and for his generous and unflagging mentorship to many of the leading lights in the Computer Graphics community. He was one of the first people to recognize the potential of computer graphics to transform film and video making.

Lance graduated from the University of Kansas (B.A.1973) as an English major in the Honors program with a minor in Asian studies. He went on to study at the Institute for Humanistic Computing then at KU. From there he became aware of the innovative work being done at the University of Utah and joined the cadre of pioneers developing the soon to be known field of Computer Graphics (1973-76). Lance would eventually get his PhD by submitting three of his published "seminal papers" in lieu of a thesis. He was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the University of Utah in 2000.

Working as a visionary Senior Scientist at Apple, Google, Nokia, Nvidia, DreamWorks and Disney, Williams led teams in the development of groundbreaking technologies of his own design. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his willingness and ability to make generous and meaningful contributions to scientists and researchers in a wide range of fields that benefited from his unorthodox and seemingly unlimited creative insights. In 2001 Mr. Williams joined the less than two dozen renowned scientists ever to be honored by The Steven Anson Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics, considered to be the field's most prestigious award (thru the ACM SIGGRAPH), honoring his lifetime contribution of pioneering developments in the emergence of computer graphics and visual effects. Williams received a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2002 recognizing "his pioneering influence in the field of computer-generated animation and effects for motion pictures."

Those who knew him will remember his unfailingly polite manner; his gentle, erudite, and wickedly funny sense of humor; his incredibly creative insights on technological problems; and his seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of science, engineering, history, and art.

His brilliant, creative mind and humanity will be sorely missed.

Lance is survived by his wife Amber Denker and two sons, Mane and Zeph; his brothers Sean and Todd Williams, and step-father Robert B. Simpson. He is predeceased by his brother Bret Williams, mother Joan Joseph "Jan" Williams and father Dick G. "Skipper" Williams. He has many cousins that he loved dearly. He often commented that he could never have been luckier in regards to family. His family has shared its love and support of KU by fundraising for the KU athletic department since 1949. The athletic fund is now named "The Williams Fund" in honor of their contributions. Lance's family's connection to KU is legendary.

A celebration of his life will be held November 18th in Pasadena, CA. The "Lance J. Williams Memorial Fund" has been established at the University of Kansas. Donations can be made at: KU Endowment, PO Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044. Or online at: www.kuendowment.org/LanceJWilliams
Published in Lawrence Journal-World from Oct. 15 to Oct. 17, 2017