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My Young Friend, Jay Stern

I’d like to offer a brief word of farewell to commemorate the passing of a dear friend and mentor, Jay Stern.  Jay passed away this past Saturday, June 13, 2009.  He was 95 (you can find his obituary here).  Jay was, among many other things in his long life, the founder and President of the Interactivity Foundation.  The Foundation, the guiding notions of “interactivity” and the discussion process we’re focusing on in this blog, all of this sprang from his creative thinking.  Of course, Jay was committed to interactivity, which means these creations didn’t spring from his head fully formed–they came into being and they grew by collegial and exploratory dialogue and discussion.

I first met Jay in 2001, when he was 87 and I was 41. So, I admit it sounds a bit odd to call him my “young” friend.  Yet in a very real sense, Jay was one of the youngest minds I ever encountered. Jay was youthful because he was open to possibilities, open to new discoveries, and open to the twists and turns of genuine conversation that might lead to those discoveries.  Jay was a friend in the sense of a real conversation partner: he was part of a grand conversation whose creative vitality he sought to nurture.  While we’ve lost the possibility of meeting Jay in person, we’ll still be very much his conversation partners as we continue the interactivity he helped set in motion.

Jay would often close communications by saying, “Keep the faith!”  It was his way of encouraging an attitude of trustful optimism, to remind us to stay open to the new, to trust in each other and to be open to the possibilities that might be uncovered through collaborative conversation.  I think that’s a fitting way to say farewell to Jay–and to keep our conversation with him going.
Keep the faith!

–Jeff Prudhomme