I came to Rider University as a Chemistry major. In my Sophomore year, I took a year of Organic Chemistry, perhaps the most difficult college course I have experienced. My assigned lab partner in Organic Chemistry was a genius. She was smart, friendly, and like me despised Chemistry, but was taking the course work so she could pursue a higher degree in physical and occupational therapy. We bonded over our mutual hatred of the class, and mutual struggles with it. Her name was Susanne Herbert.
Susanne used to complain to me in our discussions that her boyfriend from high school had dropped out of college at Lehigh University to pursue a tech startup job, and she
worried that he might not succeed in the company, or in completing his education. Suzy and I became good friends and had many such discussions.
Suzy graduated from Rider after that class. I remained at Rider for 2 more years. In my junior year, we inducted brother #58 into the chapter, Oliver Giller. Oliver spoke in a high voice, laughed at every joke (no matter how dumb), and was friendly to everyone. Oliver, in his whole life, could never say anything negative. He would enjoy every moment like nobody I ever met. He could not speak ill of anyone, and he would find the fun or positivity in everything, now matter how much we would all complain.
Oliver came around to meet me at a time I was running my own DJ business. I needed to move all of my compact discs (pre MP3) into pro-sleeves to fit them in my newest storage cabinet, and needed to find 3,000 pro-sleeves. Oliver made a project of meeting every brother in the chapter before he was inducted. Oliver decided to utilize this time to get to know me, and we spent an entire day running from one music store to another to accomplish this mission. We went to every music store from Trenton to Edison to find 3,000 pro sleeves. Over this time, we bonded and became very good friends. From that day forward, whenever Oliver or I needed to run errands, we would call each other and the other would tag along for the ride.
No matter what the project, Oliver was always along as my sidekick. Whenever he had a project, I became his sidekick. Oliver progressed in school, and struggled with writing. I helped him get through his papers. He was a genius with science and computers, but could not express himself or write well. It was part of the reason he dropped out of Lehigh. He would bring papers to me, and I always would help him formulate his thoughts into something more cogent. Then he excelled.
Oliver re-programmed the IPX network (pre-WiFi) at the dorms to think it was a Battle.net network, which allowed us to link all of our computers and have 8 way battles in Worms, Armageddon, and Starcraft. We would game for hours. When there was snow or rain, he would crash in my dorm room. He always would come up with fun pranks or
adventures to share with the brothers, and would get everyone excited to participate in the fun.
Later on, he brought his girlfriend from high school to our formal, and what a surprise it was for me that it turned out to be Susanne Herbert, my old Organic Chemistry lab partner. Ollie was surprised that I was already friends with Susanne, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn they were high school sweethearts.
Over the remainder of our time at Rider, we became best friends and inseparable. When I was nominated for homecoming King, Oliver was a force of organization behind my candidacy. I became Homecoming King with him by my side. Oliver was obsessed with tools and DIY projects, and I accompanied him to Home Depot or Lowe’s on hundreds of tool expeditions, to ensure he always had the latest and greatest tool for every job.
My Senior year of college, we both realized we had no spring break plans, and decided (last minute) to drive 24 hours straight to Orlando with Mahnaz Shirrazi, our mutual friend. The three of us had a spontaneous Disney adventure I will never forget.
Oliver and I graduated together. Oliver then went off to work in venture capital in South Africa and then Ecuador. Despite the distance, and his struggles with his long distance relationship with Susanne, we managed to remain close friends. He would call with with interesting stories from abroad and I would give him the latest news from SigEp at Rider.
Oliver returned from overseas, and (finally) proposed to Susanne. When she said yes, I may have been the first person he called, and he asked me to be his best man. I was honored, ecstatic and blown away by his request. Oliver was married at a church in Princeton, and we took wedding party photos on the front steps of Princeton University Library. Our wedding party was just a fun group of people, and we hid flasks in the bridesmaids’ flower baskets. Needless to say, our pictures were awesome.
In 2004, I went off to law school in Indiana. When I left my position with the State of New Jersey, Oliver was unemployed. I therefore fought hard with my boss and got Oliver the position (which changed from finance manager to data manager to suit his talents). Oliver worked in that position until this past January, when he could no longer physically work due to his illness.
Oliver threw an early 30th Birthday party for me a few weeks early at his house in Titusville to wish me well. The gift he gave me was a framed photo from his wedding party, which still remains hanging in my house (and I will never take it down).
In 2011, Oliver was diagnosed with brain cancer. I was living in California and new in my legal career working 80 to 100 hours a week at a big firm. I called in every favor, and took every free day I could to fly back to New Jersey and visit with Oliver. After his surgery, I flew back to New Jersey, grabbed him at home and we ran errands together for two days. I even had the good fortune of being in attendance for his daughter Julia’s first birthday (his son Alex was then 3 years old). We were overjoyed when he was given a cancer-free bill of health later that year.
Oliver and I remained in touch, not as often as I would like, over the years since. In 2016, we celebrated our 20th anniversary as a chapter in Princeton, and Oliver came out to the celebration and it was like we both never left. Shortly after our celebration, Oliver told us his cancer might be back, but it was just a blip on an MRI and he would start chemotherapy again. Oliver was in remission for almost six years, but the cancer came back in 2017.
I spoke with Oliver a couple of times over this period, and he was always positive. He said he would beat it again, and he would see his kids graduate from high school. This January, Susanne reached out to me to tell me the therapies had not worked, and Oliver was not doing well. I made plans to come for a visit in April or May, but Susanne said he might not make it. Then we spoke in early February and she told me he had weeks, not months and I should come sooner. Oliver’s cancer progressed rapidly and it is taking him sooner than any of us would like.
Oliver celebrated his 44th birthday last weekend. He has lost his ability to speak or communicate, to move, to eat and is now in Hospice. His son Alex is now 10 years old, and his daughter Julia is 8. At the time I am writing this, I am on a plane back to California after saying goodbye to the best person I have ever known and one of my best friends in life. I am heartbroken for my friend and for his family that is being robbed of a great man.
Some of you were lucky to have known Oliver, and I am sorry for the rest of you reading this that are just learning about him now, when it is too late to know him. It is your poor fortune if you did not know Oliver Giller. I will never forget him.
Steve Sutow, Esq. #19
ON THE COVER
I’m thrilled to share this portrait of Oliver Giller. Oliver is the person who first introduced me to the concept of Open Source. He is easily the largest philosophical influence on my life, and helped to form what I list amongst the most important beliefs that I have. I lost touch with him after he graduated from Rider University about 9 years ago, but always remembered the things that he introduced me to, including the GNU Image Manipulation Program, Linux, and the GNU General Public License.
Within the last 2 years or so, though, we’ve reconnected, and I’m happy to say that we are even doing a project together, which I’m doing this sketch for. I’m less happy to report that Oliver had to undergo brain surgery recently which left him with a scar, and in Oliver’s work to recover he donated a picture of his new stitches and asked that I do something creative with it for our project, essentially a journal of his recent health issues.
John LeMasney, April 5, 2010
Reprinted courtesy of John LeMasney