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McGovern recalled as 'a catalyst of the computer industry'

Patrick Thibodeau | March 21, 2014
Launched IDG and Computerworld with a focus on user in the era of Cobol, IBM's System/360 and other mainframes from companies long gone

A few years after creating IDC, McGovern followed by founding Computerworld.

Along with its focus on users, McGovern realized he needed to fill a need in the IT publication business — speed. Most computing publications at the time were monthly. Computerworld would be a weekly.

Running a weekly, in the pre-Web days, wasn't easy.

Lundell recalled how a major snowstorm shut down Boston, where the publication was based. They were "pulling an all-nighter" to get the publication out. McGovern arrived at the building "and said 'What I can I do to help?'" recalled, Lundell. "I said go get pizza and he did."

Lundell believes that Computerworld helped empower data processing workers, and to think of themselves as IT professionals.

Pat McGovern helps Computerworld celebrate the magazine's 45th anniversary in 2012.

George Colony, founded Forrester Researcher in 1983 as a competitor to IDG. Despite that, McGovern offered business advice.

"It just struck me," said Forrester CEO Colony, "how magnanimous and helpful he was."

McGovern "was one of the catalysts of the computer industry in the United States," said Colony. In his various efforts, "he was building the intellectual and knowledge base that everyone was riding. Essentially, he's a massive figure."

Paul Gillin, editor of Computerworld from 1987 to 1999, recalls McGovern well.

"Leo Durocher said nice guys finish last. I always thought McGovern proved that wisdom wrong," wrote Gillin in an email. "One of the most remarkable things about Pat is that everybody loved him. I honestly can't remember anyone ever saying a cross word about him. Pat was honest, compassionate and relentlessly optimistic."

One thing that McGovern did was to send out complimentary memos with little rainbows on them. The memos "were an IDG fixture," said Gillin. "He read the publications thoroughly each week and fired off several congratulatory notes each week. People would pin those notes to their cubes like trophies. I still have mine!"

"Shortly before I joined IDG in 1982, I read a profile in the Boston Globe that said that McGovern personally visited every U.S. employee to deliver the Christmas bonus every year," said Gillin. "I couldn't believe it, but a few months later there he was. We used to prepare months in advance for the visits, assembling profiles of each employee. Sometimes he needed the prompting but for longtime employees he always could pull stories out of his elephantine memory. He had amazing recall."

McGovern, said Gillin, "was exceedingly modest man," and to illustrate, he recalled McGovern standing with a Computerworld staffer who mentioned that she was planning to paint her house.

"Pat offered to come over and help. 'I'm a great paint scraper,' he said. I have no doubt that if she had taken him up on his offer you would have shown up, scraper in hand," said Gillin.


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