Please share stories, photos, memories and adventures to celebrate his life by commenting on this post.
Share Your Thoughts and Memories
Ben Taskar unexpectedly passed away in Seattle on Nov 17, 2013. He is leaving behind his wife Anat and his 2 year old daughter Aviv. Ben was an amazing scientist, father, husband, brother and a friend. He was brilliant and selfless. Always ready to help and share ideas. He will be dearly missed. This space is for those who loved Ben, cherished his friendship and were inspired by his work.
Please share stories, photos, memories and adventures to celebrate his life by commenting on this post.
I had the pleasure of working with Ben for several months this past year. Sitting with him in meetings, you quickly see his passion and intellect for research - even as I only begin to appreciate all the contributions he has made in this regard. Most importantly, I remember his kind and friendly nature that was readily apparent upon meeting him. He will be missed, and my thoughts go out to his family.
11/20/2013 06:09:24 am
To Anat and Ben's family,
11/20/2013 06:14:37 am
I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear the tragic news. I have had many nice technical discussions with Ben and he always had great insights to give. I will never forget Ben at Emily and Carlos's wedding. He was so full of life and we all danced the night away. I would have never imagined such an end to someone so energetic, but there is so much out there we cannot control. My best wishes are with the family.
11/20/2013 06:45:01 am
I wish I had something uplifting to say at a moment like this, but I have only sadness. Things like this should not happen. Ben was such a positive presence all around, so handsome, so smart, so laid-back and focused at the same time. He, more than anyone deserved to live. I am heartbroken for the family, with all the trials you have already been through, this one is too much to bear. I wish you strength, I wish you hope, I wish you to be surrounded by love. Amen.
11/20/2013 07:55:21 am
My husband is a PhD student in GRASP at UPenn. He did not know Ben personally, but knew of him. It is obvious, even to someone who never knew him, that Ben was a fantastic human being.
11/20/2013 08:06:50 am
Ben was my son's high school friend. I remember him as a teenager, handsome, bright, kind and very hardworking even at 15.
11/20/2013 08:08:19 am
Ben used to play tennis with me, and others, at Stanford. He was a gentle and peace-loving guy! Peace and love to his family.
11/20/2013 08:32:38 am
I'm devastated by this, as we all are. I write from Berkeley where I came to run a workshop, and all who knew and loved Ben from his time here are overwhelmed by sadness and loss.
11/20/2013 09:03:44 am
I was shocked to read about this on Facebook yesterday. My thoughts are with Ben's family.
Delfina Falcao & Hector Guestrin
11/20/2013 09:56:06 am
Dear Anat, Aviv and Ben's family,
11/20/2013 10:13:24 am
I don't really know what to say. I know Ben from his ML class and attending lectures at Penn. He was always more than willing to help out students even though it seemed he didn't have 5 minutes to spare given how busy he was. His talent and brilliance was eclipsed only by his humble nature and positive attitude. It is inspiring to see how many lives Ben has made such an impact on. My heart goes out to his friends and family.
11/20/2013 12:30:34 pm
I was in Ben's machine learning lectures last year at Penn. And it was one of my most enjoyable class experiences. I cannot believe such an admirable and energetic scientist is gone. RIP. And I extend all of my best wishes for his family.
11/20/2013 01:15:20 pm
I was just joining Daphne's group at Stanford when Ben was on his way out. At that time, he was my idol, at the end of the long PhD road that I was just beginning. I got to know him when he helped me co-advise an undergrad researcher, and I was awed by his deep understanding of the content, but more importantly, his positive, open, and friendly manner. He was a natural teacher and mentor who cared about us like an older brother. I remember sitting outside Thai Cafe with him for lunch and thinking that any student would be incredibly lucky to have him as an advisor (and through the years I've continually used him as a prime example of what a PhD advisor should be like).
11/20/2013 01:44:13 pm
I am thankful to have been a close friend of Ben’s over the last dozen years. I only wish fate was less cruel and there were a few more dozens left in store. Ben was a wonderful person, one of the best I have ever met. He was kind and considerate, humble yet ambitious, a hard worker at one moment and the soul of the party at another. At some times, Ben would be thoughtful and melancholic. But most of the time he had a twinkle in the eye, he was silly, he was fun.
11/20/2013 03:24:24 pm
I find writing this note to be extremely hard. I am still in a state of shock and I cannot bring myself to think of my friendship with Ben in past tense. The thought that I will never see him or hear him laugh brings tears to my eyes.
11/20/2013 03:33:04 pm
I took Ben's class last spring, and saw how brilliant he was. He cared a lot for his students and was a really nice guy in general. I looked up to him and I'll miss him.
11/20/2013 11:20:37 pm
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this very difficult time.
11/20/2013 11:33:22 pm
It is impossible to capture in words the shock and sadness that we all felt at the news of Ben's untimely passing. Anyone who spent more than 5 minutes with Ben recognized that they were in the presence of a truly special person. His talent, his sense of humor, his ability to put people at ease were all remarkable. Somehow you always walked away from a conversation with Ben feeling better about yourself and about life in general. I can only imagine how much more keenly his loss is felt by those that were closest to him. My thoughts and prayers are with them.
11/21/2013 12:08:24 am
I first met Ben at NIPS2012, but I have known about him through his research. It was not difficult to tell how brilliant he was the first time we discussed. He will always be remembered.
11/21/2013 12:41:04 am
I still find it hard to accept this is real.
11/21/2013 01:15:04 am
When I started at UPenn, he taught my first class. Straight away, I knew he was a brilliant scientist. What I learnt from him will stay with me forever. I give to him my deepest thanks.
11/21/2013 02:50:20 am
Like everyone else here, I find it hard to believe that Ben is not with us anymore. When Ben was a postdoc at UC Berkeley, I was a graduate student there. I remember Ben taking interest in some of my research. He encouraged me to give a talk about it in an informal setting. I was touched by his willingness to reach out to a grad student and provide encouragement. I am sure there are many others whose lives were touched by Ben's kindness. What a terrible loss!
11/21/2013 02:54:13 am
I had the privilege of knowing Ben professionally and personally during my time at UPenn. As a student in his machine learning class I had the opportunity to be mentored by him. He was an amazingly approachable guy with an open door policy. You could walk in to his office at any point to discuss course material or just generally chat about research. Outside work, he was a great competitor on the soccer pitch and I have a lot of fond memories from our evening pick-up games.
11/21/2013 03:03:41 am
I sit here shedding tears as I read these comments. Ben Taskar was my brother in law, but more importantly, he was a dear friend. You didn’t have to be in machine learning to appreciate Ben’s intellect, and you didn’t have to be a childhood friend of Ben’s to feel like you knew him all your life. Ben was a person you couldn’t help but love. Ben was family from the moment I met him, even before we married into the same family. He was one the most intelligent, genuine, caring, and fun-loving people I have ever met.
11/21/2013 03:23:52 am
The world became a little dimmer. Ben was one of the people that carried that light with him. I knew him and Anat briefly and what seems like a long time ago. The memory that resurfaced today is of a bright, enlightened, full of life man, kind, fundamentally good and always smiling. I hope this kindness and light stays with Anat, Aviv and the rest of the family... So sorry for your loss. Love and deepest condolences to the friends and family.
11/21/2013 03:52:43 am
I find it very hard to accept that Ben is gone. My deepest sympathies to Anat and everyone else affected by this tragedy. I first met Ben at Stanford when I was an undergraduate just getting into research. He, Drago, Carlos, Christian, and the others in Daphne's group were welcoming and inspirational, so smart but always ready to hear out a half-baked undergraduate idea. For all his brilliance, Ben had such an easygoing personality that it was impossible to feel ill at ease with him. I remember after the more ridiculous things I'd say there'd be a half second pause before his face dissolved into a grin. My best memories of Ben involve eating burritos with him and Anat in the Mission, seeing the really impressive photographs he finally showed me under extreme duress, hanging out with him in hot tubs and lift lines at NIPS. I have to admit to playing enabler at that notorious mantle-breaking party. Perhaps my favorite memory of Ben is of him snaring his employer around the neck with a feather boa--or was it a leather belt?--for a twirl or two around the dance floor as everyone looked on in shock at two of the most brilliant people they knew fooling around like boys. He was one of my heroes, as much for his caring nature and spirit of fun as for his work. He will be missed.
11/21/2013 04:35:42 am
11/21/2013 06:22:26 am
I last saw Ben at about five o'clock in the afternoon on July 11th.
Yalda, Chris, Darius and Marjan
11/21/2013 06:42:32 am
To Anat, Aviv, Ben's parents and sister, and all of his family and friends, our deepest condolences. We are so sorry about Ben's passing. All our love to you.
11/21/2013 07:15:16 am
Ben was my thesis advisor at Penn and he always strikes me as an extremely bright innovator and caring mentor. My heart goes deeply to Ben's friends and family; his superb work and cheerful attitude will keep shining on us forever.
11/21/2013 10:06:42 am
I met Ben at Stanford in 1998 - full of youth, intellect and spirit. He worked in our startup netDialog as a brilliant young engineer, a family member technical co-founder Ilya Beyer and student of advisor Andreas Paepcke. He was one of the best - a passionate doer and a friend to all.
11/21/2013 02:15:30 pm
"Tony, I'm going to be back in L.A. this weekend - when do you work?"
11/22/2013 12:39:01 am
Ben was a truly exceptional scientist and a warm and fun friend, but as I remember him in grief, what stands out maybe even more was his great care for others, both those close to him and those who would just learn from his work. Three brief examples:
11/22/2013 01:23:51 am
I still can't believe that this is real and that Ben is gone...
11/22/2013 02:09:19 am
It is still very hard for me to accept that Ben is not with us anymore. I remember his smile, his laugh, his jokes, our conversations about life, our discussions about work, his warm, caring and sincere attitude towards everyone and everything. Ben was such a strong source of positive energy that just being in his presence was making people happy. So young and so brilliant – I still remember his best paper award at NIPS 2003, the paper which basically created a new machine-learning field while Ben was still in graduate school – and yet so humble. So passionate about his work and his family. The last two years, after Aviv’s diagnosis, were incredibly tough, and yet I never heard him complain. Ben and Anat were fighting against the odds to keep Aviv as healthy and as happy as they could, to live in the present and to be happy today. I admire their strength, and thinking of Ben and Anat helps me go through tough times that life sometimes unexpectedly presents to all of us. And memories of those past conferences, those Gatsby parties with broken mantelpieces and sofas (well, I have to admit actually standing on that poor sofa, too), crazy dancing with former advisor and body surfing through the NIPS crowd – all these silly things that Ben was absolutely the best at - make me smile and, for a moment, let go of pain and deep sadness, as if Ben is still with us, but just won’t be coming to the NIPS this year…
11/22/2013 03:00:33 am
I met ben at my first "internet startup", NetDialog. His friendly manner invited conversation on any topic, and it was not long before you became aware of just how brilliant he was. I have thought of him often in the convening years - and will always remember him as a comrade in the trenches in the early days of the internet boom who went on to share his intellect and inspire others.
11/22/2013 03:05:04 am
Anat and Aviv, thank you for sharing these pictures. I am so glad that you had that time with Ben and that he had it with the two of you. And so sad that it all ended so terribly and so soon. We have all lost a brilliant mind, a great colleague, a wonderful friend. And yet it is your loss of Ben's love that makes this so incomprehensibly unbearable.
11/22/2013 05:43:05 am
It was my great honor and privilege to get to know Ben in six weeks of intense briefings, discussion, research and travel over two years with the Computer Science Study Group. Quiet in nature but with an inquiring mind, passion in research and eagerness to share insights, he was admired by and a friend to all. Ben combined deep thinking and common sense in a most gentlemanly way. My sympathy and prayers are with Anat and Aviv.
11/22/2013 08:25:29 am
Ben was on my dissertation committee. I am always grateful that he was willing to spare time just to help me. He was really kind. The discussion with him was a great help to my research. Without his help, I could have been very lost. I also enjoyed his Machine Learning class.
11/22/2013 11:28:24 am
I was fortunate to get know Ben during his limited time at UW - I TA-ed for the only class he taught here. I will always remember his warmth and his ability to make students feel comfortable in his presence. Even though our interactions were limited, it was clear to me that he was a brilliant researcher and a caring mentor to his students.
11/22/2013 12:32:40 pm
I still remember, monday morning, around 9am, when I opened my inbox. I saw this email, which I could hardly believe. I read and reread it couple of times, if it was real. It is really hard to believe that Ben is no more.
11/23/2013 01:42:17 am
It is with a heavy heart that I finally bring myself to write this. I met Ben on the Muni bus 28 on his first day going to the Hebrew Academy. We spent the next few years as classmates and close friends. I remember dancing with him at my 16th birthday party, when he was still shy about dancing and had to be dragged out onto the dance floor; oh, how things changed since then! Over a year younger than his classmates, Ben was easily the smartest, and the most humble in our class. Even as a goofy teenager, he was always willing to help and give his time. Ben will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Пусть земля тебе будет пухом.
11/23/2013 02:28:35 am
Здесь слова теряют смысл: всех их вместе - недостаточно, чтоб сказать то что чувствуешь.
11/23/2013 04:47:36 am
I was lucky to have the privilege of working with Ben for a short time as a PhD student as well as taking a few of his classes. It can be intimidating as a grad student to be surrounded by intellectual giants, and I think that is why I'll always remember how humble and approachable he was. He was patient and generous with his time to an extent that never ceased to amaze me, especially given the pressures of the job. Although our collaboration was brief, it had an indelible impact on my career, for which I am extremely grateful. In the research world, his work was inspired and novel to a degree that is uncommon, and for that I have always thought myself one of his biggest fans.
11/23/2013 05:46:14 am
It is a strange feeling to be so affected by the death of someone I knew only from meeting during a recent wedding weekend. But there are rare instances in which you meet a person for the first time and feel that you've known them for a long time ... because that rare person is able to form immediate and deep connections with those around him. That rare person who makes you feel at home and who makes you feel like family, even though your paths have not previously crossed. Ben was that rare person. Indeed, as my undergraduate advisor used to say, they "broke the mold" when they made Ben Taskar.
11/23/2013 07:34:40 am
Ben was the session chair for my talk at CVPR this year, and I had the fortune to meet with him when he visited Toronto a month ago. Though our talk was short, he gave me many helpful insights and advices, and I can feel that he is really warm-hearted. A couple of years ago, I started to work in this field by reading one of his papers. Now our field really lost a thinker and pioneer. My prayers with Ben and his family.
11/23/2013 08:08:24 am
I had the honor and privilege of being Ben’s first start-to-finish Ph.D. student. I think back fondly now to when I first visited Penn and met him. I was awestruck from the start. He disarmed me with his charm at our first meeting, deftly discussing the finer points of living in West Philly versus Center City. Soon into my first semester I realized that not only was he incredibly cool and nice, but he was also one of the smartest people I have ever met.
11/23/2013 09:59:12 am
We went to Ben's beautiful memorial service yesterday. I'm thankful that I had a chance to say goodbye.
11/23/2013 01:52:09 pm
I only met Ben once, in a parking lot, when he came over to pick up Anat. He impressed me as a very nice and polite person. The scene Ben was carefully adjusting Aviv's car seat is flashing back, and I could tell he loved his daughter dearly.
11/23/2013 06:05:08 pm
I am so sad and shocked. Ben was my advisor at Penn. I took his machine learning class and worked as his Research Assistant at Penn. Ben has helped me a lot. He is so intelligent and helpful. Many thanks to him. He will always stay in my memory. My thoughts go out to his family.
11/23/2013 11:47:38 pm
Ben and I had been friends since... 14, 15 years of age. Went to school together. Played chess and sneaked cognac from our parents cabinets and philosophized. Remember taking the #28 bus to school and back together; the cross-streets were in reverse alphabetical order on the way to school, so we can start from the beginning when we got there, as it were. It was a nice daily cycle. Remember Ben telling me about his ideas for college essays, one being about inventing an AI computer that would read and rank college essays. Remember being at Alina's wedding, where I'd danced with a girl for the first time. It might have been around that time when Ben introduced to me flat-front pants; I'd not bought pleated-front pants since then. I've come to believe that little things like that ... well, they can make a big difference in a person's life at a certain age.
11/24/2013 05:25:47 pm
I am very saddened by the news. Professor Taskar was very willing to serve as my external thesis committee member even though I had never met him before. He was very helpful, and gave me key suggestions in helping the structure and scope of my thesis.
11/25/2013 04:58:25 am
A true and dear friend is gone.
Ella and Konstantin Katsovich
11/25/2013 05:20:32 am
Dear Tsilya, Marik. Deepest condolences to you and all your family. Our hearts go out to you. Ella, Kostya.
11/26/2013 05:15:38 am
"Grace" -- is the first word that comes to my mind when I think of Ben Taskar.
11/27/2013 08:19:57 pm
Ben, dear friend, I will miss you.
11/29/2013 12:22:08 am
I just read about Mr. Taskar on philly.com this morning. First, I am writing to send my sincere condolences. It was clear that he had a touch of brilliance that many benefited from. Lastly, he was one of my contemporaries, only 36 years old. I pray the Lord's blessing upon his wife and daughter and all family members. May His face shine upon them and be gracious to them. Shalom.
Mike & Anna Vaynberg
11/29/2013 09:30:20 am
Our hearts aches for you. We are so sorry for your loss.
11/30/2013 06:00:21 am
Ben was the best uncle to me. He was smart, funny, helpful and optimistic. He helped me to look on the bright side of things and helped me come to my senses when I needed to. He was always there for Aviv and an amazing role model. I envy his kindness, smarts and humor. He will be loved and surely not forgotten.
11/30/2013 08:47:34 am
When I started my research in Daphne Koller's group as a masters student in computer science at Stanford, Ben (then one of Daphne's PhD students) took me under his wings. He was an amazing mentor, always there for me, always excited to discuss, whether it was new research ideas, debugging / architecting some code, paper / presentation structuring, or yet something else.
We just had our Memorial service for Ben at Penn today. Fifteen days after his passing, the auditorium was completely filled without any standing room, packed with his friends, students and colleagues in Philadelphia. The outpouring of grief was so great--I was especially moved by the comments from Anat and Ben's father. No parents should have to bury their children, and Ben has left behind both parents along with Anat and Aviv. It was clear that Ben's energy and joy has touched so many people, all across the country and around the world. The sense of loss is so unfathomable, and our mourning still so great.
12/2/2013 05:29:58 pm
Dear Taskar family!We are so sad and heartbroken about your horrible loss...We love and admire VENECHKA so much!...it is certainly impossible to speak about him in past sentence ... And no words can help ease this enormous pain and loss, we know...VENECHKA is so much fun and joy and outstanding generousity - understandandeble in such a brilliant person, in a genius like him...
12/3/2013 12:40:24 am
I cannot write about the accomplishments of Ben’s working life but I read them with interest and appreciation for what he has contributed. I also read them and appreciate the window into his talents and his sharing of himself and his incredible knowledge to others.
12/5/2013 11:31:32 pm
Ben: Hey Ofir, Ma Nish-ma (Hebrew slang for how things are going) ?
12/10/2013 12:24:26 pm
Ben was always the center of our family gatherings, and it brought everyone great joy to see him and talk to him. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who cared more for his family than Ben. I remember since I started high school, I had been looking up to him as a role model. I was amazed by everything he accomplished, not just professionally but mostly by the kind of person he was, and that has always been a motivator for me. I truly feel anyone who was lucky enough to know or meet Ben became a better person as a result. Ben not only had all these amazing qualities - kind, funny, adventurous, determined, and easy going - but he instilled them in you and showed you how effortless it can be. I am proud to say Ben was my cousin, and his memory and spirit will never be forgotten.
Message from Anat
12/10/2013 04:32:16 pm
Anat & Aviv would like to thank everyone for all the amazing gestures of comfort Ben's friends and family have offered. People's kind expression of sympathy and impressive generosity were and are still deeply appreciated.
2/20/2014 10:43:38 pm
Prof. Taskar never knew me. I applied to UPenn (for Fall 2013) and had hoped to do my PhD under his supervision.
3/30/2014 01:05:20 am
Right after Ben passed away, it was very hard for me to write about him. The pain was too fresh, and I kept putting off writing this note, hoping it would become easier. Ben was an awesome person. Anyone who knows even a little bit about his work knows how brilliant he was, how much he stood out even among the best scholars. What makes it so hard for me to fathom that he is no longer with us, is that he was such an amazing person. He seemed to always know the right thing to do in any situation, and more than once he has helped me through personal problems where I felt completely helpless. He never wanted to give up, and he didn't let me give up either always knowing how to improve the situation. One time, when I had committed a pretty serious social/professional mistake (resulting in a friend being very upset, and my feeling pretty powerless to make it right), he called me from hundreds of miles away, and calmed me down and told me what to do. Instead of sulking in my room, I did what he suggested and took at least one small step towards making it better. I remember him saying the words "it isn't too late to fix it." That sentiment, the optimistic view that you're never helpless, has stayed with me and sometimes when I find myself at a loss, I think "what would Ben do" and I know the answer isn't to give up or to hope the problem goes away.
2/23/2015 04:49:11 pm
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10/19/2020 08:25:16 pm
I don't know exactly why I'm writing this now -- so many years later. News of Ben's passing hit me hard at the time -- I knew both Ben and Anat from Stanford days and found the whole situation heartbreaking. Now out of the blue, found myself thinking of him in this year of 2020 as we approach the 7th anniversary of his passing.
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