Note: This column was originally written in April 2022, and briefly updated in July 2022.

One of the privileges of being a president (beyond the Air-IT-One jet, this is one of my new initiatives, see next column) is to write this column.  I knew exactly what type of column I wanted to write - wholesome, organic, inspirational - but as I was a bit unclear on how to achieve this, I decided, instead of presenting brainy rational thoughts, to focus on hearty feelings and emotions.

I want first to share my deep sadness for the loss of four cherished colleagues, all of them giants in our field:  Toby Berger, Robert Wendell Lucky (Bob Lucky), Pravin P. Varaiya, and Alexander (Alex) Vardy. Toby Berger, passed at the age of 81, was one of the icons of Information Theory, with visionary contributions in rate distortion theory, multiterminal source coding, and neuro-information theory. Bob Lucky, passed at the age of 86, was a distinguished pioneer across Information Theory and Communications. His many contributions include the invention of the adaptive equalization for intersymbol interference as well as years of inspiring technology-related writings and speeches. Pravin Varaiya, passed at the age of 81, was a greatly admired and loved scholar, who contributed ground-breaking results across a wide range of areas, including information theory, stochastic and nonlinear control, hybrid and distributed systems, communication networks, transportation systems, power networks, sensor networks, economics, game theory, and optimization. Alex Vardy, passed at the age of 59, was a visionary coding theorist whose deep contributions include the Parvaresh-Vardy codes and the Koetter-Vardy decoding algorithm, and were recognized through illustrious awards including the Information Theory Society Paper Award. I was lucky to know Alex more personally, and I know I will miss his bright intellect, kindness, generosity and influence. Our field is impoverished from their loss.

Next, I want to share my delight that the Aaron D. Wyner Distinguished Service Award of 2022 recognized the service of Alon Orlitsky to our Society, and in particular, the major positive impact that the Information Theory and Applications (ITA) workshop has had in our community since its inception in 2006. ITA combines information theory with fun and outreach, and has flourished as a forum to foster and exchange ideas between the information theory community and related areas such as machine learning and theoretical computer science.

Photo from ISIT 2022
Photo from ISIT 2022

Which brings me to the ISIT in Finland, from which I am just back. I would like to share my appreciation for all the time and effort the General and TPC chairs have put in its preparation. This was our first in-person ISIT since Covid/online-everything, planned to include all the technical and non-technical events we traditionally have: we enjoyed a strong technical program, inspiring plenary lectures, an excellent set of tutorials, including Raymond Yeung giving the Shannon lecture (I admit I am partial to network coding).

I am also very happy that the first issue of IEEE BITS, The Information Theory Magazine, has appeared (checkout also the BITS website). Our amazing inaugural EiC, Rob Calderbank, has worked tirelessly in attracting contributions from researchers both inside and outside our Society; the technical articles are interspersed with engaging columns - and if I understand correctly, a number of special issues are to come in the near future. One of the articles was from my group, so I can now legitimally claim that the publication ball is on you, do consider it: Publishing a magazine article is a very good way to summarize, advertise and put in context a line of work you are proud of, rethink what are the next steps, reach an audience that may have missed the technical articles you published, and make your funding agency happy.

Finally, I wanted to share my amazement that as soon as my presidency started, our wonderful administrative assistant of 8 years, Matt LaFleur, decided to accept a different job. His replacement also resigned within a few weeks. I wanted to reassure you, in case you have heard rumors, that it is not because of me. Luckily my graduate students are still sticking with me, or I’d really start to worry. And jokes aside, I am very grateful that Matt is continuing to support us during the search for his replacement -  we have very much appreciated over the years all the work of Matt and other administrative IEEE staff that have ensured the smooth operation of our Society. In the months since I wrote the above sentences, Ashley Tufunga, has joined us as our new administrative assistant- even in person in Finland - and I want to extend a very warm welcome to her.

On this note, I would like to briefly discuss our strategic goals. Formally, we do not have any. But before you despair: we do have a strong vision. I went back and read the articles of our past presidents, and they consistently outline a number of important strategic goals the volunteers of this Society have been tirelessly working towards. The main directions they outline include: (i) strengthen diversity and inclusivity (ii) increase the communication with other technical communities and (iii) raise the visibility of our society to the general public. I completely agree - we have been working and will continue working towards these goals - if you get a chance, see for instance the recent diversity and inclusivity survey summary that appeared in the previous newsletter.

What I could add to that? I would like to invite you to read an editorial that appeared in 1973 by Dave Forney commemorating 25 years of information theory, that is republished in this BITS issue. Dave mentions that "I  have been exposed to the cry that information theory is dead from the time I first entered graduate school at M.I.T., in 1961." Today, sixty years later, we still sometimes hear similar comments - and yet, the field of information theory is very much alive and vigorous. One interesting development, is that fascinating information theory results have appeared not only within our Society publications and events, but also outside, in a number of top venues and from researchers in other fields (e.g., venues in machine learning, theoretical computer science, cryptography, statistics, applied physics and others). It has been a strength of our Society that we celebrate and embrace information theory results no matter where they are published and appear and I am happy that we continue to do so. This openness can serve us well in connecting with other areas and researchers, and can help to showcase the wide impact information theory tools and approaches continue to have.

And of course I cannot end this article without giving thanks: to our leadership team, Aylin Yener, Wei Yu, Matthieu Bloch and Stark Draper, thank you for your tireless work for our Society, with special thanks to Wei for his immense help in the transition;  to the many volunteers who make sure our committees, conferences and publications achieve our high standard of excellency, with special thanks to Brian Kurkoski for the above and beyond effort he has made that has led to our new website - with new pages and services continuing to be added; to our BoG members for their many useful suggestions, work and good will; and to all of the ITSoc members, for making this such as an awesome society.

ITSoc is our professional "home" - and if you talk to my family you will learn I am always into "home improvement" projects (they would claim with mixed results, I beg to disagree). If you have any ideas or suggestions, or if you would like to help, please let me know ([email protected]). Thanks for reading!