This site is for family, friends, and colleagues of Avner Magen to post their thoughts and memories of him. Avner died in a climbing accident on May 29, 2010, in Alaska.

Avner was a beloved and devoted father, husband and son; a terrifically warm, funny, and energetic person; a brilliant and creative researcher; and a wonderful friend and colleague.

Please share your stories, memories and words of support by sending an email to You may also post comments to any entry. Visit this Photo Site for a photo memorial of Avner and his family and friends. Instructions for adding pictures appear next to the album.

More details appear on the Avner Magen Memorial page.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Yotam Eviatar

If you hear me up there, in heaven, I love you.
There is no great uncle in the world like you.
And if I'm wrong, you are the greatest uncle in
outer space.
Unfortunately I can not tell you how much I've
changed and how much I miss you.

I didn't see you lot of times since you left to Toronto,
and now I don't have a chance to ask what about you
and Roy, Noa and Ofri.

But do not worry about it, I saw all your children which
are also my cousins and I saw Ayelet and all her family.
I miss you and I hope no matter what I am going to meet

Miss you and also miss Ayelet, Roy, Noa, and Ofri.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Anton Piatigorsky

Dear Ayelet, Ro'ee, No'a and Ofri,

Although we first met years ago, only recently did I have
the opportunity to get to know Avner a bit better. During
two recent play dates with Ofri and my son Reuben, I had the
chance to speak at length with him about his work and mine,
our lives, Toronto's old shore line, travel, etc. I liked
him immensely. In the second play date, at your house, just
a couple of weeks before he died, we spoke of Etgar Keret's
stories, among other things, and I was greatly touched when
Avner brought out a collection and proceeded to read me the
story "Second Chance", translating as he read. So rarely
does one adult read to another, especially for such a simple
reason – because he loved a piece of writing and thought I
would enjoy it. I thought it was such a simple and heartfelt
act of generosity on his part.

That story has particular resonance - as clear from the
title. I doubt I'll ever forget it, or his reading. Nor will
I forget him. I was excited by the prospect of my new
friendship with Avner. I'm sick with grief at your loss.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Allison Doerr

I met Avner when my husband Iannis was a postdoc at the University of Toronto. Whenever I would work from Iannis's office, Avner would often stop by to chat about their research. There was always a lot of laughter and references to Curb Your Enthusiasm. Avner was always friendly and smiling; it was clear that he was very well liked by all of the graduate students and postdocs in the computer science department.

One memorable day, Avner and Iannis were working on a proof on the whiteboard. The proof was so complex that they ran out of Greek letters to use as variables, so Avner, with a glint in his eye, decided they needed to invent a new symbol which he called "xona". Much laughter ensued; Avner was so pleased and amused by his invention. Several months later he recounted the story in an impromptu speech at our wedding; remembering it even now still makes me laugh.

My best wishes to Avner's family who have suffered an unthinkable loss; I hope you find the strength to heal. We will miss Avner very much.

Shimi Tagner and family


כך באמצע שנות חייך

שהחיים היפים עוד לפניך

קשה לעמוד ולהספיד אדם

שבנסיבות טראגיות ליבו נדם.

אבנר,היית לכולנו נר

נר שדולק ומאיר את הדרך

אדם עם אישיות ובעל ערך

הקמת משפחה לתפארת

אתה ורעייתך איילת.

הקדשת מזמנך הפנוי לחינוך ומשחק

ולא התלוננת על עייפות וכוחך נשחק

את כישוריך העריכו מאוד ילדיך

וכעת יהיה להם קשה בלעדיך

את אהבתך לילדים ולאיילת

הקדשת למסעדה,טיול בהרים,או בטיילת

אדם צנוע וישר

ומעל הכל גם יקר

אהבתך לטיולים בחגים ובשבתות

סחפה את כל המשפחה בחוויות

אך בליבך עמוק,היה נטוע תחביב

ולא חשוב אם זה בחורף או באביב

והוא אתגר בטיפוס על כל הר

שבסופו הביא את מותך המר.

ולכם עופרי,נועה,רועי ואיילת מגן

אלוהים ישמור עליכם,ויגן

הכאב עם הסתלקותך הוא חד

וזיכרונך יישאר עימנו לעד.

יהיה זכרך ברוך

איתכם תמיד משפחת טגנר:אתי וזאב,שלומית,אורן ועדי,רומי ושי,שימי קרן וגל.


In The middle life
Beautiful life ahead of you
It is Difficult to eulogize a man
That In Tragic circumstances is Heart had stopped.

Avner, you have been a candle for all of us
A Candle that was lighting the way
A person with valuable personal
You have Establish a wonderful family
You and your wife Ayelet.

You have dedicate your spare time to education and play

And did not complained of fatigue
Your children appreciated Your skills very much

And Now It will be hard without you
Your love for your children and Ayelet
Dedicate to the restaurant, a trip to the mountains, or stroll
Modest and honest person
Above all beloved.

Your love for travel during holidays and on Saturdays
Swept the whole family experiences
But deep in your heart, was planted the Hobby
No matter if it's winter or spring
This is the challenge to climb any mountain
Eventually led to the bitter death.

And To you Ofri, Noa, Roee Ayelet Magen
God protect you
The pain with your death is sharp

Your memory will remain with us forever.

Blessed be your memory

Always with you Tagner's Family: Eti & Zeev ,Shlomit, Oren & Adi, Romi & Shay , Shimi Keren & Gal.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jeremy Cho

For me, one of Avner's greatest strengths as an adviser was
his sharp attention to detail and desire to understand every
step of an argument that was presented to him. At first I
found this to be intimidating and often spent late nights
before meetings refining my proofs and even attempting to
predict the clarifying questions he would ask. As a result,
I gradually began crystalizing my thoughts in the same way
that Avner did - with an intuitive geometric picture instead
of the rambling narrative I was so accustomed to. The fact
that he treated my ideas with a level of respect and
interest normally reserved for seasoned researchers also
provided a vital boost to my self-confidence at a time when
I was unsure about my place in graduate school.

There are many Avner moments that will be forever etched in
my memory - our multi-part conversations on the merits of
the phrase "it is what it is", the day I walked into his
combinatorial optimization final with an arsenal of Red
Bulls and the good-natured ribbing I received in the many
months to follow, and the endless amusement he derived from
my dependency on goose-down jackets on days when he would be
wearing shorts. In one of our last conversations, I shared
with him my dilemna of what I should do following my
Master's degree and the response I got was typical Avner -
honest, thoughtful, encouraging, and of course peppered with
his irreplaceable sense of humor. For all these reasons and
more, I will never forget him.

Cathy Indig

I will remember Avner fondly for a man who truly adored his
family. I was able to witness his relationship with Ofri on
a daily basis as the two of them came in each morning,
usually with rosy cheeks from the bike ride they has just
taken. Rain, sun or snow, they pedaled their way to the
MNjcc. Avner always had a smile on his face and it was quite
evident that he adored his son. They would both come in
happy and singing.

Avner, we will miss you dearly.

Ken Montgomery

While travelling in Romania, it was with great shock and
sadness that I heard the news about Avner. I am still in
Europe presenting academic papers and thus unable to attend
the memorial service. Avner so obviously loved his family
and I cannot begin to comprehend how this loss impacts each
of them. To Avner, thank you for your sharing of
adventures, your always supportive conversation while I
sorted out challenges in my life, those coffee chats in
which we humourously tried to make sense of one another's
academic work, your friendship and support for the
friendship between Rie and Noa, and for your many generous
smiles. To say that you will be missed is obviously
understaing it. To Ayelet and the children, please accept
my most sincere condolences.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cole Zemel

Avner is unforgettable. Every time I saw him, he drew
my attention. I had a lot of fun times with him and his
family and I want to tell Roy, Noa, Ofri and Ayelet that I
am incredibly sorry and if there is anything I can do to
help just let me know. Roy, Noa and I will definitely have
a trampoline party soon! And we can eat some more amazing
guacamole with Ayelet.

Avner is a daredevil and a real go-getter. Always up for a
new climbing trip or marathon. He died doing something he

Lots of love, Cole Zemel

Ella Pitassi

It was such terrible and shocking news to hear about
Avner's loss. It is still so hard to believe since it is
definitely not right. It was just a couple of weeks ago
when I last saw him when the Magen family came over for
dinner. It always has to be that the best people leave us

Avner always had a positive outlook on life. He was so
funny as he knew how to make everyone laugh no matter what
the situation was. Clearly he was active and very
inspiring. He was also great company and overall an
amazing father, friend and just a great person.

Roy, Noa, Ofri, and Ayelet I am so sorry this had to happen
to you. I cannot imagine how hard it is for you right now.
You 4 are great though and you have so many friends and
loving family members and we all are here for you if you
need or want anything!

Antonina Kolokolova

I met Avner during his postdoc time at UofT. We talked
sometimes in the theory corridor, mainly about Russian
language (he once asked me how to say "diapers" in Russian
-- I didn't know) and Russian music. There were many songs
that both of us knew, mainly songs by Vladimir Vysotsky.
And there is one of these songs, "the summit",
that I keep thinking of ever since I heard the tragic news.

The song is about mountaineers, and one last summit they
don't get to reach. About the beauty and the ultimate danger
of such life: and yet that it is a better end than "from
drinking and colds". About the characteristic traits of
mountaineers -- friendship, courage, appreciation for the
beauty of nature. Like Avner...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sue McGlashan

It has taken me some time to know what I wanted to say about Avner. I saw the quieter side of him, but better understand his small smile when he asked me to join his seminars on this campus - he knew that my math was not at the standard to understand much, but he still included me.

On the 6th June I cycled the Becel 50 km, dedicating the ride to Avner, and stopping for a while at 10 A.M. It was cold, very wet, and very windy, and I might not have gone to cycle if it had not been for the image I had of Avner shaking his head. I know he would have been laughing at and with me, and despite the conditions, I enjoyed that event.

I will remember him when I cycle and run. He lived for living. Thank you, Ayelet, for understanding why I wanted to cycle.

Jennifer L. Salter

I shared a taxi with Avner last fall to the start of the Toronto marathon. Andrew suggested we go together, and spoke of Avner as a good friend and good person. On the way there, Avner told me he had missed qualifying for the Boston marathon before by a close margin, and was intending on trying again to run a time of 3:20 - which he did. He gave me advice in preparation of running my first marathon as well.

I ran into him at the Purim carnival at the JCC in April - he was helping Ofri on some preschool play equipment and seemed so sweet with him.

I am so sorry that this happened. It is so unfair.

Jaikumar Radhakrishnan

I met Avner when I visited the Hebrew University in 1996. I am certain I did not meet him on the first day. He wrote to me about six months ago: "The news is that I am arriving to India with Roy (13 yo, born the day you came to huji if I remember correctly...)." When we did meet, a few days later, he was working in the lab and listening to music on his radio.

We met and talked often. I learnt that he had visited central Asia and climbed mountains there. He showed me pictures of many of these places, including a rocky peak (in Turkey I think), where you shouted something each time you dislodged a rock and sent it crashing down, so that climbers below could watch out. I learnt that he loved the sounds of the Russian language, and had picked it just by listening. My Russian-speaking friends confirmed that he was excellent at it.

He tried to teach me to climb. He took me a few times to practise at the Valley of Hinnom. One of these visits I remember quite vividly today. Since traversing the rocks there was rather easy for him, he did not bring any helmets for us. He allowed me, however, to use my bicycling helmet. He told me about how he spent some time climbing in Switzerland in the company of a Scotsman, and imitated his accent. He was very patient, when my limbs did not respond to the Scotsman's commands. I also remember the conversation while we were packing up as the sun was going down. He suddenly stopped and said: "You are not interested in what I am saying. You are not paying attention". To redeem myself, I immediately repeated the three previous sentences. He said: "That does not mean you were paying attention. Ayelet does the same thing all the time!" A few weeks later, he promised to take me on a more challenging climb. He came home on Friday morning. My parents were visiting us then. I remember him mentioning to me as we got into his car that my father asked him "his good name." He was amused when he heard that this was some sort of politeness translated from Hindi into English. He thought hard as to why one would say such a thing, as if considering if it was a custom he would want to adopt himself.

As the time approached for us to leave Jerusalem, Sumana and I were invited for dinner. We met Ayelet for the first time at their place. In the years since, I have met him off and on, each time renewing old memories and forming new ones. I visited him in Toronto and stayed at their place: Royi had grown up and Noa was still very small. Noa and I got along so very well, I got a certificate from Ayelet for being good with small kids. Avner had to cut it off by saying that it was bedtime, not time to be silly. He took me to an ice hockey stadium near his home.

He got in touch a few months before his visit to India in December 2009. When we met in Kanpur, he seemed very happy. I invited him to Mumbai, but he had already planned the visit to Nepal.

We will miss his warmth. Whenever he was around, the world just seemed very comfortable, rather the world did not seem to matter. He smiled, he mocked, he understood, he explained, and whatever did not yield to these, he just took in his stride.

I wish to convey my deepest respect to the members of his family, some of whose messages I just read here. I respected Avner for his originality and independence, but believe what we admired in him was derived after all from those he was closest to. I draw comfort from the fact that these virtues still survives in them, and hope that recognising this will help them get over the terrible tragedy of his passing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Edna & Avi Wigderson

Dear Ayelet, Ro'ee, No'a and Ofri,

It was with great shock and sadness that we received the news of Avner's death. It is so hard to translate feelings to words.

Avner was a colleague and friend. He was a graduate student at the Hebrew University when we were there, and later a postdoc in Princeton after we moved there. We have seen the kids born, and grow up, also after Ayelet and Avner made Toronto their home - a home it was always fun to stay over for the night, play and laugh with the kids and adults.

Avner had over the years a special connection with our oldest son Eyal, also a climber, which added another dimension to our friendship with Avner. Here is a small story about how this started.

Climbers face many dilemmas, which on the mountain are often truly life and death ones. And of course, their family and friends share concerns and dilemmas when they are on the mountain. This story is about a minor dilemma, faced by Avner many years ago, which started our special relationship. It was the first thing we both immediately remembered upon hearing the news of Avner's death.

It was 12 years ago. Avner was still a PhD student at the Hebrew University, and already an experienced ice climber. Our son Eyal was just 16, already a rock climber and wishing to begin his first steps of ice climbing. It was summer, and Eyal was in the Alps, about to climb Mont Blanc. Avner was aware of these plans, as both Eyal and us consulted him about it. The day before Eyal's planned ascent Avner came to talk to us. He said he has deliberated this conversation a few days, not knowing if to talk to us or not, and he finally decided to do it.

Avner told us that four friends of his has climbed Mont Blanc a few days earlier, and when descending, one of them slipped and fell to his death. He knew how concerned we were about this whole idea. He knew that we knew that death on the mountain is part of ice climbing, often for reasons beyond climbers' control. He knew how much Eyal wanted to do it. And he knew that Eyal is young enough for us to veto his climbing. So should he tell us something we already know (in principle), and endanger Eyal's plans? And if he doesn't tell and something happens, or if he does tell and we veto the trip, does he bear responsibility? The mountain generates far stranger and greater dilemmas.

That memorable day we were spared our own dilemma - what should we tell Eyal. He called to say that he decided to cancel this ascent, as the weather did not look good. But of course, Eyal's continued climbing career generated other dilemmas for us, and plenty more, for him. Avner shared our pride of Eyal's achievements, and listened to our fears andconcerns. There was only one person to talk to, within the span of minutes, about the relative advantages of different ice screws, and about proof complexity. It was wonderful knowing you!

Stephanie Knapp

I became one of Avner's many students last year. He was truly a wonderful and inspiring professor who had so much to offer. I am saddened by his passing, and the posts here are all so touching. One need not look further to know this manwas loved and cherished. He will be greatly missed.

May you rest in peace, Avner Magen. You will be forever loved and not be forgotten.

Funda Ergun

What a horrible loss of a wonderful person...

I've known Avner for almost 10 years now. While at NEC in 2001 we would have the same conversation in bad Turkish every morning when we came in (he'd learned several expressions during his hikes in Turkey). Then he'd switchto Russian, of which I knew not a word but that never stopped him; to this day I don't know what he was saying. He would then claim that we should all learn Russian just so we can read Pushkin in the original language, I don't know if he himself ever did...

Avner would always say the most absurdly hilarious things with a deadpan expression, and the most serious things with his crooked smile. I don't think it was clear to anyone which mode was which, and I am pretty sure that he did mean some (probably most) of the most absurdly funny things that he said. And these would come, unannounced, smack in the middle of a thinking session while working on a problem, followed buy a proof of a lemma. Never a dull moment with him!

I fully expected Avner to do Everest one day; and I'm sure Iwasn't alone.

Ayelet, it's impossible to imagine your and your family's pain; I do hope that some amount of control and normalcy will be restored to your lives soon. My deepest condolences, you are in our thoughts always...

Shimi Tagner

To Ayelet, Roee, Noa And Ofri

We are so sorry to hear about this tragic news. We are in shock and do not have the direct words to comfort Magen's family.

Avner was a great father, a great husband and a above all a great person -- funny, Humble and a peaceful man.

Ayelet, Roee, Noa and little Ofri -- we are hugging you from here and sending you all our love and support -- Be Strong.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nicola Galesi

This is a terrible and very sad news. I remember Avner as a friend although I knew him only for one year, when we shared our PostDoc there in 2002.

He was really a very nice, enthusiastic, friendly, patient, brilliant, intelligent, deep and ironic friend and colleague: a beatiful person and a gentle spirit.

That kind of person that after one hour together you would like to have him as a friend for ever. This is very very sad.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Eric & Jodi Block

We shared only a few good times all together, but have so
much affection for Avner, Ayelet, Roy, Noa & Ofri. We met at
the AGO...Eric heard you speaking Hebrew, and being from
Halifax (where Hebrew is seldom heard), he still gets that
urge to speak to every Israeli he encounters (good thing we
don't live in Thornhill!). We started talking and somehow
made the connection that Avner and I were both
Russophiles...I couldn't believe it when I heard Ofri and
Avner speaking to each other in what is to both Avner and I
a 2nd/3rd tongue. Soon, we were making plans to have
dinner. Though we are so different in some ways (Eric's
idea of an ambitious hike is from Rosehill Ravine to the
Brickworks), we were immediately enamoured by your warmth,
your humour, your easy manner, and your incredibly
wise-beyond-their-years children.

We've been in touch sporadically -- just because life gets
busy. I recall emailing Avner in the fall and laughing when
I got his response a day later apologizing for the delay
because he was (still, as he emailed me) in Tibet trekking
with Roy. I shared the message with Eric and we laughed, in
awe of his adventurous spirit and the vision of father and
son experiencing the wide world together. Amazing.

Avner was in our lives but briefly, but we adored and
appreciated him as we do you -- his family -- even when out
of sight. Eric and I received word of his death this
morning, stood together reading of this tragic accident, and
cried for him, for Ayelet, and for Roy, Noa and Ofri. I
write this with tremendous sadness, and with a message of
outreach and friendship at this terribly difficult time.

With love,
Jodi, Eric, Sophie & Faye Block

Catherine Xiaowen

I'm so sorry to hear this tragic news. Avner was a great
father, a great friend, and a a great person. He love for
Nature will stay in many ways with his family, and with his

I'm so sorry for Ajelet. They were the best couple that I've
ever known. Be strong, please, Ajelet, if just for the kids.

He once took a series of pictures of a maple tree near UTS,
showing the changing color of the beautiful leaves. Now
whenever I pass that tree, I would remember him.

Mark Koskie


I was so sorry to hear of your loss. Although I never met
Avner, I can see from the many tributes on this site that he
lived a life marked not only by accomplishments, but by joy
and love for those around him. I know that you shared these
values with him.

It is true what they say, that "no one is really gone if we
find a way to remember them." I believe that in time, you
and your family will exemplify this statement by living your
lives to the fullest, as Avner did. My thoughts and prayers
are with you at this difficult time.

Gil Kalai

I was shocked to hear the terrible news. I remember Avner
from his days as a graduate student here in Jerusalem. Being
Nati's student he is sort of my academic nephew. Already as
a graduate student Avner had achieved important results on
metric embeddings. After Avner graduated we were not in
touch for some years but I always kept hearing great things
about him from common friends and from colleagues. Then
three weeks ago we started a correspondence on a problem
about two families of sets that Avner was thinking about
with his student Siavosh Benabbas. It looked like a very
nice problem and it was fun and interesting talking about it
with Avner. I wish we could go on.

My condolences to Ayelet, the children and to all Avner's

Michael Shapira

For some odd reason one of my most vivid memories of Avner
is him eating an apple. Well, this apple was sitting in the
fridge for some time then and there was something white that
spilled over it a while before and crusted, perhaps yogurt,
but it was the only thing that he could find in the fridge
at that late hour of a night shift in the army. He did that
with sort of a matter-of-factly attitude that he had, "this
will have to do and no need to think more about it." As I
recall, he was humming to himself while eating, returning to
his mathematical puzzle in the back pages of Scientifc
American. I don.t remember what he was humming, but I bet it
was David Bowie, or maybe the Sex Pistols -- he was
extremely fond of these two in those days -- go figure the
connecting thread. There was nothing about Avner that was a
cliche. He is probably the most original person I have ever
met. He didn't try to be this way, it just seemed to come
naturally to him doing whatever he found interesting, and
this included so may things, often so different.

I didn't know Avner the family man well, this came later,
but the one time I saw him with his family, I think it was
about three months after his first child was born, Ro'ee,
isn't it? Seeing you two together made me start thinking
about having kids, something that never crossed my mind
before. I remember him swinging you in a blanket and both of
you looked so content. You had a quiet confident smile on
your face, and I thought, wow, this looks so right. I know
it must be very hard for all of you, but from what I saw
back then, and from what I read here, I'm also sure that you
have something of him with you that will stay with you for

Daniela, my wife, knows this last story. I told her about it
a long time ago, before our daughter Amalia was born.

Our thoughts are with you.

Vassos Hadzilacos

I admired Avner immensely for the passion, dedication, and seriousness with which he pursued the things he loved. Thinking of his zest for life brought this passage from Tennyson's Ulysses to mind:

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

May we all have the courage to drink life to the lees, to shine in use --- as Avner did.

Kate Brown

As Ayelet and Avner's next-door-neighbours we had the
pleasure, the absolute pleasure, to see them many times a
day. I was going to qualify that this was during the warm
weather months but actually we would often see Avner out our
kitchen window in the winter, shoveling or walking the dog,
and would always laugh because of how lightly he was

Ayelet and Avner had just finished designing and making a
beautiful garden in preparation for Roy's Bar Mitzvah in
July. Ayelet has been tending to the plants and the new
grass with such pleasure and care. I loved seeing her
sipping a glass of red wine last week on her new deck in
total peace. Similarly, two weeks ago it was great fun to
come out our back door one morning to find Avner practising
rapelling from the roof of his second story wearing a
backpack. I called out to him and he looked over at the
roof line of our house thinking someone was there. I gave
him a hard time about what chance there would be that
another person would also be up on a roof just then.
Although I cannot remember it verbatim, he had a very funny,
interesting answer about the possibilities of people being
on roofs that kept the conversation going. With Avner,
conversations never ended. They just got interrupted -- by
kids or dogs or the phone ringing. He could make an
interesting, funny conversation out of any topic or starting
point. It was so much fun to give him a hard time about
everything and he gave it right back. It is so hard to
convey in writing the joyful banter that went back and forth
over our shared back yard fence with Avner and Ayelet, but
it was the most wonderful part of my day. Avner was truly
unique, one of a kind, and I will miss Avner forever.

When I think of our two backyards they were a place of such
joy and laughter because of Avner and Ayelet and their
wonderful ways. I so so wish Avner had not gone on that
climbing trip because we wanted to grow old with Ayelet and
Avner living side by side and enjoying each other so much.
I found it helpful to grasp how important climbing was to
him when I went on his work site. He has only 4 headings:
research interests, publications, teaching, and "pictures
from my climbing trips". He has photo collections from each
of his major climbing trips. I have had to remind myself
that he would not be the Avner that we all loved so much if
he did not honour all parts of himself, including his love
of climbing. There was an ease in Ayelet and Avner's
relationship that was so enjoyable to be around. They were
very different and yet both shared an openness, a feeling
that everyone in their family and beyond was free to be who
they were. This ease permeated their other relationships,
and their relationship with us. The ease between us was
tested in the last year since Ora joined their family
because I do not like being around dogs. While we worked
through a couple stresses early on, we had managed to turn
it into a source of laughter over our differences. A few
weeks back Ayelet and Avner had commented that we should
remove the fence and join our backyards. They were both
ready and waiting for a very fun conversation as Avner
anticipated our response: that something else would have to
go before the fence. Avner demonstrated his mock outrage
again with a huge twinkle in his eyes, and we each walked
away feeling true to ourselves but appreciative of each
other's differences.

Ayelet, you and your family have brought such joy to our
lives on Manning Avenue. I have never felt so at home in my
life than I do right here beside you. I will be here for
you forever to do anything I can to help you feel at home.

All our love forever to dearest Ayelet, Roy, Noa, and Ofri.
xoxoxo Kate, John and Jonah

Peter Schön

byl na pamir (or "how was it in the pamir") this year?”

You asked me that a few months ago. It was a great adventure! It was one of these adventures full of dreams & expectations, moments so full of deprivations and exhaustion that one questions everything, and days of success when all the questions about the “why” and “what for” are answered. Did I tell you that from the summit we stood on I saw the great Pik Somoni, from the opposite side then we had seen it the year before? It loomed above the clouds that hung over the Academy of Science Range, surpassing everything. Pik Somoni there, and great Tirich Mir on the other side of the horizon.

Do you remember the day when you stepped on the summit of Pik Chetyriokh? Standing above everything and everybody else for a little while? How you first questioned your abilities, doubted that you can make it, but then gave everything, trusted in our roped connection, consumed the
team’s energy, to make it in the end? The day we then summited Pik Korzhenevskaya, that elevating moment when it all makes sense, all of a sudden? And great Pik Somoni – one day, yes, one day!

Our mentalities and backgrounds were so different. I am younger than some of your students! Yet there were no biases, no prejudices from your side whatsoever. You never talked about how great a scientist, researcher and above all teacher you were – unless I asked you, and even then just
briefly and then we would often end up talking about something else. About our research activities we have really just learned after we had both returned home. And in the mountains you became an excited student again, keen to learn about high altitude climbing, your body’s response and
strategies to make it.

You fully respected me and trusted me in the most challenging situations. This is something I take far from granted, and something I will never forget.

”drop me a line (nothing long…) to tell me of your plans this spring. is it still georgia? I will be going to alaska (ruth gorge) May 23, and will be flying thru vancouver. I don't expect you will be still there, right? do tell me if you are flying thru toronto - will love to meet.”

When you were in Vancouver, I actually was just taking off from Tbilisi/Georgia to head back home to Austria. It was great to see the Caucasus – I say this because I I know you were lucky to have seen the great Caucasus, too! Like so many places you were lucky to have seen. I told you that a photo I took of you in the Pamirs was shown in a photo
exhibition in Tbilisi, right?

And how I wish I could have met you in Toronto earlier this year as we had planned. I have climbed with quite a few people. Some I climbed with once, some I climbed with again. And then there are a few, with whom I have keep in touch with regularly, also for reasons unrelated to the mountains; they are those I would drop that short line every once in a while to see what is up and how life is. When we would have met in Toronto we would have talked a little about mountains, a little about our research, but also a lot
about all the other things in our lives. And that is remarkable!

Next year I will greet the Pamirs from you. You were a climbing partner, but also a true friend.

Zipi (Fligelman) Shaqed

An experience about 10 years ago in Turkey had convinced me
Avner is not regular when it comes to mortal dangers. We
were in my first and only company retreat and my boyfriend
Ariel had convinced me that we should take a trip over
Antalya in the mountains with Avner and Eyal.

Well, it turned out it was not for the faint of heart.

At our first stop in some obscure stream dominated by a
large bolder, Avner decided to jump in the stream from the
boulder and landed rather badly on a rock.

I was convinced there and then that he is invincible,
because he just missed by a hairline all the pointy "make
yourself permanently crippled" rocks that loomed under the
stream to his left and his right. Not only that but he
continued to travel grimacing here and there due to what I
thought must have been a blow that would have taken most out
of commission. Never stopping but to joke in the most
serious face. We got lost in the mountains that day, with
almost no fuel, no maps and just Avner's Turkish speaking
abilities and charm to get us through unknown paths. Don't
worry except me none of the men there were worried. After
all as Eyal (our able driver) said "We returned and the fuel
tank was not totally empty which is a shame".

So you see Avner got some additional mythical colors in my
eyes ever since then. I mean on top of those I had from my
dealing with Avner and his algorithmic group in Compugen
known as "The Leads Team".

The end of that story includes among other things a f
riendship with the Magen family where I have learned more
about the true charm of both Avner and Ayalet.
I am deeply saddened that such a unique personality has been
taken from us so soon and my heart goes to Ayelet and the
kids. The strength someone who loved us instills in us goes
beyond his life time. I know that from personal experience.

I am sure being the family of Avner you are stronger than
anyone will ever imagine.

יהי זכרו ברוך ע"י הטבע שהוא אהב ואלו שאהבו אותן


"Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun,
it shines every where." - W. Shakespeare, 12th night

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

John DiMarco

Avner was precisely the sort of bright new faculty member
that I loved to see arriving in the department: smart,
interesting, a font of exciting research ideas, yet easy to
get along with, thoughtful, kind and willing to step up for
the good of others. We were privileged to have him with us.
His untimely death is a great loss, and he will be deeply

Mark Gopaulsingh

To the family and friends of Professor Magen,

Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.
Professor Magen was an excellent and fair teacher, and he
will be missed.

Sincerely, Mark Gopaulsingh (a student of Professor Magen at
the University of Toronto, Mississauga)

James R Lee

I'm not sure I really comprehend yet that Avner has passed from this life. I feel like he was one of my closest academic friends. Thinking back, we might have only spent about a week or two worth of time together, but his remarkable warmth and charm were so compelling that he always felt like an old childhood friend. I used to make sure to walk into conference sessions with Avner so he would have to sit beside me. He was a constant source of insight and wit, and as many others know, he was ruthlessly hilarious. Avnerian sarcasm was truly brilliant - somehow scathing and affectionate at the same time. He was a dedicated father, but also a perennial kid himself. I remember numerous underwater races in hotel swimming pools; Avner wouldn't just win - he would always make sure to hold his breath at least twice as long as me. And I remember his bizarre devotion to Curb your Enthusiasm. Once during a visit to Toronto, Avner arranged a viewing party at his house. There were probably ten of us huddled in his living room around a tiny 13" television, with him grinning ridiculously the whole time. I will miss him. I take some solace in the fact that his kids seem to have inherited a good deal of his charm and sense of humor. I'm sure that Avner will live on through his family and his friends.

Yair Bartal

I would like to share my deepest condolences to Avner's family. I only knew Avner as a colleague, but every time I met him he was always extremely nice and helpful. I was very sorry to hear about the sad and tragic event.

Pavel Kunt & Vladimir Vinduska

With Abi we met only for one month in 2008 at Moskvin glacier, Tajikistan, but we remembered him very often. He was a great guy and we will miss him.

Pavel Kunt + Vladimir Vinduska
Czech republic

Paul Solomons

I met Avner when he first came to Canada and had the pleasure to work with him in his home search. I soon discovered what a mensch he was: after spending any time with Avner you always felt better about your day and life. To Ayelet and the children, words fail me but the lyric “only the good die young” rings true. Josephine and I wish all of the Magen family long life.

Rahul Santhanam

This news came as a great shock to me. Not only was Avner my host when I was a postdoc at Toronto, but also a good friend.

My first encounter with Avner was when I was interviewing for a postdoc position at Toronto. We got along really well, even though our primary research areas were quite different. After my interview talk came a question from Avner, trying to relate my work to a concept which I'd vaguely heard about, but never thought about deeply. It was an idea from "left field" - perfectly symptomatic of Avner's personality, as I later came to discover. Later, in Avner's office, he tried to explain his work to me. He was passionate, he was engaged, he was eloquent, and I understood: nothing! It was not that he wasn't a good communicator, it was more that he was a deeply original thinker, and he must have found it hard to understand why others didn't think the same way. Indeed this phenomenon kept recurring in later research conversations with him: I was never quite sure that I understood what he was saying, yet there was always food for thought...

During that short visit, I already had an inkling of Avner's offbeat personality, as well as of his warmth. I remember a pleasant evening spent in his home, with his family and their pet parakeet "Good Boy". The postdoc position didn't pan out, but Avner invited me for a visit at some future point of time, and I took up his offer a year and a half later. That was a fun time. I came to appreciate more what others have remarked upon: his unique sense of humour. His sense of humour wasn't merely verbal - it was expressed in tics of personality (the way he leant back in his chair, the quizzical smile), and in a manner that was always engaging and yet ironic. The occupant of the office opposite Avner's, Charlie Rackoff, has a strongly individualistic sense of humour himself, and they must have had some pretty interesting interactions over the years.

Subsequent to my visit, I ended up spending a year as a postdoc at Toronto, during which I got to know Avner even better. Among the things we had in common: vegetarianism, and a passion for the HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (CYE). I was a huge CYE fan, but my passion for the show paled in comparison to Avner's. He was perennially riffing on the protagonist Larry David, and my fellow postdoc Iannis Tourlakis and I used to be invited to Avner's home to watch reruns of the show. One of the reasons Avner loved the show, I suspect, is that it finds potential for comedy in the most ordinary everyday situations. Avner was like that: he abhorred dullness and routine, and was always looking for what was fresh and interesting about life. Josh mentions in his tribute Avner's aversion to cliche. The example I remember most vividly is his crusade against the phrase "as different as apples and oranges", on the grounds that they were much more similar than different - both round, both types of fruit etc.

I stayed in touch with Avner after I left Toronto, and got a chance to meet up with him again December of last year in Kanpur - we were both there for the FSTTCS conference. I helped him with the details of his train bookings from Delhi to Kanpur and back, and I found myself sharing a compartment with him and his son Roy. I'd invited Avner to come and visit me in Chennai, but Avner being Avner, what he was really looking forward to about the trip was the Himalayan trek with Roy following the conference. And Roy seemed just as enthusiastic about the trip, if not more. It was wonderful watching father and son together, the son clearly idolising the father.

There was a dinnertime conversation during the conference which will always remain in my mind for its buoyant, unpredictable quality. At one point, it emerged that our families both had dogs who had been obtained at the same time and were of approximately the same age. We joked that they should get to know each other over Skype. He asked me the name of our dog; when I told him, he said, "Yeah, I used to know a dog of that name". Then he thought about it a little bit. "I'm confused, that wasn't a dog, it was a friend." He pondered some more - turned out it was a dog after all! By this time I was laughing uncontrollably.

The conversation continued as we made our way back to our rooms - we discussed our latest comedic discoveries. I recommended "The Sarah Silverman Show" and "Flight of the Conchords"; Avner talked up a Canadian radio show called "Wiretap". "Wiretap" - I didn't think I'd ever heard of that... Avner flared up in mock outrage, he claimed he'd mentioned it to me in a recent e-mail. And indeed when I returned to my room, there was a new e-mail from him forwarding the previous one and saying "Shame on you Rahul for not checking the links I send you!!"

I will listen to Wiretap now, but it won't be funny, it will be poignant.

Rahul Santhanam

Kaveh Ghasemloo

Life is strange, more strange is death, and it is never expected.
We all know that we all will meet it someday, but no one really knows, when and where. And when a beloved one passes away, one does not know what one can do. One day you are here sitting on a chair, while swimming in your deep thoughts, you give us a friendly smile, as we pass along the way. Who would have suspected, just in a few days, they will tell us, "he has gone away", without even saying a small farewell. I like to think of it as trip to a place far away, and someday when the time comes for us, we will meet you again. But why; if you are so far away, I keep feeling that you are still near us here?

Hi Avner,

I remember asking you "how can you survive in a flat city like Toronto?" as I thought that Toronto is too flat for someone who loves climbing. You explained that there are a few places around Toronto that one can go for climbing. And we continued chatting about Ararat and that you would like to climb Alborz someday. I saw you a few days later in my dream, guiding us in our trip. Your class was fun, and thought provoking, and I deeply enjoyed it. You were already planning your course for next semester, and I told you that I will attend it, without even knowing what it is going to be about. I know that climbing is part of you, and it is difficult for me to think that you would have preferred your last trip to be different, but I just wish we had more time with you. I wish you farewell in your last trip dear Avner.

Dear Ayelet, Ro'ee, No'a and Ofri,

It is unfortunate that I have not known Avner Magen longer, but I know him enough to know that for those who have known him longer, the sorrow is greater. I am deeply sad, but I know my sadness is incomparable to yours. He is a person for whom you can easily feel the peace, purity, and greatness of his heart and his spirit. Please accept my deep condolences.

Hadas Magen

I was so excited to read what all of you wrote. I always
knew that my brother was special. Probably I didn't know how
really special he was. One of my cousins, the age of
Avner, said yesterday that he doesn't know any other guy
that lives a full life like Avner did -- any minute and every
minute of his life. The loss is huge, but it comforts a bit
to know that he had a full life.

By the name of my parents, our two brothers, and me, we
thank you all.

Hadas, Avner's sister

Nisheeth Vishnoi

I am shocked to hear this extremely sad piece of news.

I had the pleasure of knowing Avner since 2006. We became
friends almost immediately as we realized that we shared far
more than an interest in geometric embeddings of
graphs. Over the years I benefited immensely from his deep
understandings of several problems. He was a brilliant
researcher and, more importantly, a gem of a human being.

The last visual I have of him is with his son leaving after
a meal at my parents place in Kanpur in Dec 09, packed in a
tiny auto-rickshaw with huge backpacks, all set to get lost
in the Himalayas in Nepal. I will never forget the content
smile he wore that night. I was hoping to see him soon but,
unfortunately, that was not meant to be.

I will always cherish my interactions; research and
otherwise with him. Sincere and deepest condolences to his
family from my parents and myself. We will miss you.

Ioan Stefanovici

I had the pleasure of having Avner as my professor for two
courses (in second and third year) in my undergraduate
career. I will admit that for the first of these, I did not
always see eye to eye with him. What I came to realize
however (once I got to third year) was that the reason for
that was because I didn't really understand him [yet].

I think the moment I really "got" Avner and his unique wit
and sense of humor was when, in the middle of explaining a
fundamental concept in the course, he matter-of-factly asked
me to come up to the board and "pretend I was a
polynomial-time verifier"; and suddenly (after we all
stopped laughing) everyone in the class understood exactly
what he was talking about. It became even more apparent when
a couple of questions about an assignment in his office
hours turned into an hour-long discussion about ideas in CS
and in his field of work, and I realized more so how
knowledgeable and passionate Avner was about his work. His
continued enthusiasm and eagerness to share all that with
his students were the reason people enjoyed his course so
much, and were part of the reason I took subsequent courses
in his area of study as well. Running into him and
exchanging a few words outside his office in Sanford Fleming
and on the way to the coffee shop was always a pleasure that
I will miss.

I am still shocked by his untimely departure; and I offer my
heartfelt condolences to his family, his friends and
colleagues, and to his students. He will be missed.

Serge Gorbunov

Professor Magen was truly a wonderful person. I first met
him at computer science theory class that he taught at
UTM. His class changed my life in many ways. Not only he
opened up a fascinating side of computer science that I have
never seen before, but he also inspired me in many ways. His
passion for science and teaching, enthusiasm and confidence
are just a few of the things that I will always remember. He
truly cared about his students and was always willing to

I offer my deepest and sincere condolences to his family.
He will always be remembered.

Yu Wu

When I received this news I simply couldn't believe it. I
couldn't believe that our beloved teacher has suddenly gone.
To me Avner was a devoted teacher, a very respectful yet
humble professor. He had influenced us with his brilliant
thoughts and his passion about those intriguing problems. I
sincerely appreciate all he had taught me, as many other
students do. We feel awful about our loss of him. May his
memory be a blessing.

Ariel Shaqed (Scolnicov)

Avner was also a natural manager. He built and led a big
research project at Compugen, then a Computational Biology
company. His management style was not only unorthodox, it
was also unique. Everything about working with him was fun,
but probably the only effortless part of working for him was
friends with him.

I'd met Avner at University, but my first real encounter
with Avner was when I went to work there. I had been to
interviews at their main office, in Petach Tikva. Standard
stuff: interesting riddles and talking to people. Avner's
idea of an interview was rather different: He told me about
the research project he was working on. When I left over
two hours later, I really wanted to get the job.

When I started, Avner picked up the conversation
effortlessly right from where we'd left off. Especially the
bit about Mus musculus being a funnier name than Rattus

One day people came from Merck R&D for the first-ever demo.
I think by that time Avner was already officially Team
Leader (not that I recall many doubts prior to his Official
Appointment). All the team came down to Petach Tikva for
that: Avner presented to them, we hid upstairs and prepared
data to answer their questions. The encounter was

Once it was all over, Avner had an important question: In
explaining the statistical characteristics of the system,
he'd used the simple terms "positive negative", "negative
positive" and, of course, "positive positive" and "negative
negative". For some reason, the Merck people were confused
by these terms! Had he been using the terms incorrectly?
On seeing we were also confused, he explained that --
lacking context -- "selectivity" and "sensitivity" could be
confusing. It turned out that "positive negative" and
"negative positive" really meant "false negative" and "false
positive" (or vice versa). It also turned out the Merck
people had no problem understanding Avner, even with his new

Avner had many incredible tales from his journeys:
Everything from wading between isolated Pacific islands, to
discussing Qaddafi with a former Soviet air force advisor /
pilot who knew him.

The ease of slipping into behaving Avner has already been
mentioned. What I managed to learn from him was sitting on
the floor. Today at work, I was again offered a chair. The
natural way -- pioneered by Avner -- of sitting near a
co-worker's terminal is to squat. It really is less
imposing and more convenient. Avner also held entire
meetings seated on the floor.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lap Chi Lau

Avner is a very generous friend and teacher. I was not his
phd student but he was very generous with his time. In our
meetings he taught me his expertise on geometric analysis
and semidefinite programming; he shared his vision and
passion about research; he read my manuscripts carefully and
gave very useful comments; he listened patiently and gave
advice about my career; he shared his passions and
experiences about climbing and his life; he gave tips about
how to be a better father... And of course he did all these
with his wonderful humor! We interacted not for a long
time, but he has great influence on me. I have learnt a
great deal from him and he set up a great model for me to
follow. His spirit will always be in our memory.

Bernard Chazelle

I am still too stunned to write anything coherent. So please
forgive me if I ramble a bit. Avner and I were old
friends. We worked together on a few papers. He was
incredibly brilliant and I learned tons of stuff from
him. And he was the most generous soul as well.
Collaborating with Avner was truly special: almost
indescribably so, in fact. For one thing, it was a giant
laughing session, interrupted only by the occasional
lemma. So much so that I still remember going home one day
with stomach cramps: the kind of cramps you get when you
laugh too hard for too long. Avner's humor didn't come from
an endless supply of "jokes." It came from himself,
effortlessly. That's who he was. In any situation he could
see a little twist, a little quirk, a little oddness. Some
call it wit. But it goes beyond it. For Avner it was a
philosophy of life: perhaps a way of saying that in order to
take a few things very seriously one should learn to take
many things not too seriously. Among the things he took with
infinite seriousness were his family, his research, and his

His passion for climbing was easy to envy. Though I never
took him up on his repeated offers to join him on a hike (I
used to joke with him that I don't do the outdoors unless
it's flat, bug-free, and it comes with a 5-star hotel), I
deeply admired his passion. It seemed to add extra purpose
to his life. When he talked about his expeditions, his eyes
would sparkle with excitement. I don't think I could ever
understand what it was all about but it left a deep
impression on me. The intensity, the beauty, and the
nobility of his passion were an integral part of who he
was. If I can ever make sense of this terrible accident (not
that I will), it is in this context of intensity, beauty,
and nobility that I will always think of it.

I know it's a trite thing to say but I feel privileged to
have been Avner's friend. At the same time, I expect to
receive an email from him any time now asking me why in the
world I've been writing all this "nonsense" about him as
though he was gone. It's a cliche to say that it must all
be a bad dream. But that's how it really feels, and it

My deepest condolences to his family.


לאילת, רועי, נועה ועופרי,

עיקר ההכרות שלי אתכם הייתה כמשפחה שתמכה בנו במשך השנה שלנו בטורונטו.
עזרתם לנו במעבר, אירוח מושלם
ואמא ואבא מאד עזרו לנו כשהיינו צריכים לחזור לארץ בגלל קשיים של מיכל.

אבנר, מצחיק עד דמעות, חד אבחנה וחתיך הורס.
תמיד כשאבנר היה שואל אותי שאלות ומתעניין באמפתיה, שאלתי את עצמי כמה זה ממנו
וכמה זה מהחיים המשותפים עם אילת. התשובה אינה חשובה,
משפחה היא שלם שהוא הרבה יותר מכל אחד מבני המשפחה
וקשה לי לעכל את האובדן שאתם חווים בלי אבנר.
הרי כל אחד מכם הוא גם אבנר ואבנר היה כל אחד מכם.

אין לי מלים לנחם על אובדן כל-כך גדול.
אנחנו פה לסיע בכל העומס ותשתמשו בנו כמה שיותר ובכל דבר שעולה בדעתכם.


To Ayelet, Ro'ee, No'a and Ofri,

My acquaintanceship with you was as a family that supported
us during our year in Toronto, helping us with the move with
perfect hosting. Mommy and Daddy helped us very much when we
had to return to Israel because of Michal's difficulties.

Avner, funny to the point of tears, with his sharp
observations, and gorgeous build. (In Hebrew it sounds
better, something like "an amazing hunk"). Always when
Avner would ask me questions and exhibit empathy I asked
myself how much of this is the original him, and how much
comes from his joint life with Ayelet. The answer doesn't
matter, a family is a whole that is much more than the sum
of its parts. I can't digest the loss that you must be
experiencing with Avner's departure. Each of you is Avner
too, and he was each of you.

I have no words to console you in face of such a huge loss.
We are here to assist you with your load, please use us as
much as possible in any manner that comes to mind.

Eden Chlamtac

The first time I met Avner was right after my first
conference talk. After all the nervousness and stage
fright, wondering if anyone had understood anything I'd
explained, or even cared about the result, suddenly a
professor from U of T whose work I was already familiar with
walked right up to me, introduced himself, and complimented
me on the talk and the result. We then sat down to have an
extended conversation about the work I'd presented and
related work. I don't remember exactly what we discussed,
but I remember vividly the thrill of having my work taken
seriously by someone I respect.

On that day, as in all the times I've met and talked with
Avner since then, it was not only the mere fact of being
approached by a more senior researcher that made an
impression; it was Avner's way of interacting with people,
which was always without pretension or condescension, a
meeting of equals, of friends, and which seemed to come to
him quite naturally.

To Ayelet, and the kids, I remember fondly the dinners at
your home on my visits to Toronto, and how you made even a
fleeting guest feel like part of the family. My sincere
condolences, and know that my thoughts are also with you.

Avner, you will be missed.

Josh Buresh-Oppenheim

Looking back, I find it amazing that I could be so fond of
someone who started our relationship by classifying
everything I said as a cliche. I came to learn that Avner
had a lifelong crusade against cliches, and he truly walked
the walk. As Costis mentioned, it took a long time to find
the key to Avner's sense of humor, but it was absolutely
worth the effort. His way of thinking was completely
foreign to me. He explained things I thought I understood
in a way that inevitably made me realize that I didnÃt
understand them...and that's what made him magical. That
and his energy, whose like I think I'll never see again.

I got this terrible news in Peru, about to embark on a trek
to Machu Picchu that I would never have signed up for if I
hadn't known Avner (although it would definitely be a cliche
hike for him). That's not to say that I thoroughly enjoyed
the handful of outings we took together. In fact, they were
mostly unsuccessful due to weather and gear problems (and my
city slicker personality), but I know that there must be
something deep in these kinds of quests. The proof is
Avner's passion for them. I would give anything to have one
more coffee with him, even if it involved snowshoes.

To Ayelet and the kids, I can't imagine how you must be
feeling, but know that there are many sad people out there
whose support you have whenever and however you need it.

Ryan O'Donnell

I'm devastated to hear this news about Avner. He was a
brilliant and warm-hearted guy; my condolences to his

Noa Magen

Dad is... the best. We would always climb, play soccer, just
laugh, and much more. I didn't write was, because he remains
the best. Dad will never leave any of us, he lives within
Roy, Ofri and I. He will always watch over us, protecting us
from harm. I cannot express how wonderful he is. You would
have to know him to understand. Dad always talked about
climbing mountains with me, wrestling with me, singing with
me... I will never forget him, it would be an insult to the
times we had together. Because no Dad could have been better
to me. Daddy I love you and always will.

Noa Mirriam Violet Magen Bengal
Future marine biologist

Marina Tourlakis

Our family is so devasted to hear of your loss. I cannot
begin to put into words our feelings but we are all thinking
of you and your children and dear Avner constantly. Please
let us know if there is any way in which we can help your
family during this awful time.

Michelle Craig

Avner and I worked together at UTM where we both taught
computer science, but what I remember most about Avner was
his running. While many professors and students celebrate
the last lecture of each term with a pint at the local pub,
Avner celebrated (at least one term) by treating himself to
a long run along the Credit River. He inspired me to do the

One day I arrived at lunch to find Avner wearing a
particularly goofy pair of shorts. They perhaps would have
looked fine in the summer but it wasn't exactly shorts
weather outside. I don't precisely remember the weather, but
I think we might have had snow on the ground and it was
certainly cold. I pointed at the shorts and asked, "why?"
Avner explained that he was training for a race and had run
the 30-some km from home to Mississauga and mistakenly
thought that he had a pair of pants waiting in his
office. These shorts were an improvement over his stinky
running clothes. I'm not sure if he offered his students any
explanation for his unconventional attire.

Avner, we will miss you at UTM. I'm sad that we never did
make that trip to my cottage to teach my kids to climb and
show yours how to make maple syrup. I'll think of you as I
run along the Credit next December and the following April.

Siavosh Benabbas

Four years ago when I first arrived in Toronto I stayed at a
friend's place for a week. I remember at my first meeting
with Avner he asked if I was still jet lagged and our common
friend interjected saying I was going to bed at 8. Avner, in
his usual half serious half joking tone said hey just
because he is staying at your place doesn't mean you can say
all his personal things to everyone. In a couple of days
Avner would ask me to stop calling him "Professor Magen" in
emails, just "Avner" will do, and in a week I would meet his
family for the first time in the department picnic and play
soccer with my advisor and my perception of an advisor would
completely change.

Avner was the kind of person who always had lots of things
going on but always made time for his students. Through much
of the past four years we had meetings twice a week, I have
been asked by other students if I could get anything
meaningful done for the next meeting in half a week but the
truth is the hours immediately following my meetings were
often the most productive time of my week. Not only because
he often had some great intuition, ideas or references about
what I was working on, but also because he was an extremely
energetic person and this energy was really transferred to
you. You felt refreshed, motivated, inspired.

Avner was generally very friendly and close to his students,
I remember he once came to the student cookie break and we
talked a bit about research. Some time after he left one of
the other students suddenly said "wait that was your
advisor?" the general feeling you would get around Avner was
friend not advisor. As a matter fact last year when my
father got sick Avner was one of the few people that I
talked to about it. He was the kind of person you could talk
with, be it about family, politics, or research.

To me Avner was a great teacher, a great Advisor and an even
greater friend.

He will be missed.

Suzanne Stevenson and Sven Dickinson

We will dearly miss our friend and colleague. His
adventurous spirit permeated everything he did, and
reflected a wonderful passion for life that affected all
those lucky enough to know him. While that passion pushed
him toward admirable achievements in all his endeavors, what
touched us even more was the warmth, kindness, and
generosity he showed to his friends and colleagues. He was a
keen listener who truly wanted to learn from and share with
everyone around him. His good nature, sense of humour,
patience, and genuine interest in others were endearing to
all. Avner was indeed a very special person, and we will
deeply miss our growing friendship that we valued so
much. As we picture him jogging/biking down Huron St on his
way to work, it's hard to truly accept that he really is
gone, and we feel robbed of a future in which we anticipated
much more time together.

Our deepest sympathies go to Avner's family, and especially
to Ayelet and their kids -- during the wonderful times we've
spent with them and Avner, we could see clearly how deeply
devoted a father and husband he was. He will be missed
beyond what words can express.

Nikita Pchelin


Thank you for setting up this page.

I first met professor Magen in the same semester I started
my studies at UTM. I took an introductory theory course in
CS that he taught. Even though my strengths and interests
have never been in CS theory, I was still able to, on
multiple occasions, share the enthusiasm and passion
professor had for the courses he taught. The greatest
teachers are those who can inspire their students to do work
they sometimes don't want to do.

Above all, however, he was a kind-hearted man who was always
eager to offer help and share knowledge. Because of that,
it's only natural how many people are touched by this sudden

I offer my deepest and sincere condolences to his wife,
children, and relatives.

HaMakom y'nachem etkhem b'tokh sh'ar aveilei Tzion

Aleksandar Micovic

Speaking as one of his students, I've had the pleasure of
being in Avner's class twice. Once in second year, and once
in third year. The second year was a little shaky for
everyone - students and staff - but it was understandable
since the course was being reformed and they even cut the
budget for it. The fact that we got through it at all was
amazing, if not for the fact that Avner really gave it his
all near the end. Completely selfless, he was making
appointments with students left, right and centre and
devoted more time to us than any professor should have. A
few months later, UofT bestowed upon him the recognition he

My second course with Avner was very different. This time,
no one had problems with the course, and for the first time
I saw Avner in his prime. He was all smiles, and very
passionate about the material. But above all, he was great
teacher. As a student, I can safely say that rare is the
course where you learn so much and not even realize that you

Our class had a recurring inside joke that year. You see,
the podium was right beside the chalk board, and for some
reason Avner always seemed to forget that it was there. When
walking around, he would always bump into
it. Always. Sometimes he'd mutter something, other times,
smile at the fact that he bumped into it again. It's such a
simple thing, but it's my fondest memory of him.

I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to his
family. As for us students, to say that he will be missed is
a large understatement.


Dear Roy and the Magen family,

I am very sorry to hear about your loss, and although i
never had the pleasure of meeting Avner, I know that he must
have been a very wonderful man.

I would like to offer my sincerest condolences and want you
to know that I am thinking of you, as are all of your
friends in class 8-8.

Roy we are missing you at school, and I want you to know
that you and your family are in our hearts.

My deepest condolences, Rebecca D.

Ehud Friedgut

Dear Ayelet, Ro'ee, No'a and Ofri,

Words cannot convey the pain and dismay that Keren and I
felt when hearing the bitter news - Avner is so vivid and
lively in our hearts and minds that it's impossible to
comprehend that he is gone.

Avner was one of the funniest people I knew - his deadpan
delivery of his wry and witty observations offered a mixture
of chamishiya-hakamerit wild humor with Mati Kaspi style
delivery. He was also a wonderful impersonator - I am sure
that quite a few of the people who are reading this were at
one time or another depicted by him, an honor reserved for
people he held in high esteem.

I hope Ayelet won't mind if I recall the story she told me
about the beginning of their affair, I hope I get it right,
it is so Avner: After meeting her at a social gathering
Avner phoned Ayelet and suggested that she join a bunch of
friends and come for a vacation in Sinai. After she agreed,
and a few hours before the planned departure, he phoned
again and notified her matter-of-factly that there had been
a change of plans and (a) It's not Sinai, it's the Golan
heights, (b) it's not the whole bunch, it's just the two of
them. Apparently plan B turned out to be highly

Dear Ayelet and kids - we hug you with all our might from
overseas and send you our love, we wish we were physically
closer so as to be with you and offer our support.

Avner, you will always live, smiling, in our memories.

המקום ינחם אתכם עם שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים ולא תוסיפו לדאבה

Love, Ehud

Yuval Filmus

I recall once being invited to Avner's house, to witness
firsthand the miracle - Avner was speaking to his youngest
in Russian! He had learned some Russian as part of his
training to the great Pamir Expedition, two years ago. All
the family was there, and everybody seemed so happy.

He later took me with his kids to a climbing "exercise". He
was very careful and was upset when they were taking
unnecessary risks. Clearly the "bug" has caught on.

Only two weeks ago we spoke, and he seemed very excited to
go on that trip. I can still hear his very special
intonation, the sound of his voice.

Avner, we miss you.

Eyal Wigderson

It was a great shock to me to receive the news of Avner’s

I did not know Avner very well. He was a colleague of my
father, and through the love of climbing became a friend.

As a climber, in some way I feel a responsibility to try to
explain how he would risk his life for another climb,
knowing what the consequences might be. I too take these
risks, including the risk that the results of my actions
will cause deep sorrow to those around me, a sorrow so many
are now experiencing from Avner’s death.

Unfortunately I cannot explain. The easy way would be to say
that he “died doing something he loved”, but I doubt that
this could be of any real condolence.

There are climbers that are out there for the risk and
suffering involved in the climb. Others go on crusades to
conquer summits, or even just to challenge death. I am
certain Avner was none of these. He climbed out of pure love
for the mountains. Not to face death, but to feel alive.

There is something very irrational about
climbing. Yesterday, while going through my old mails after
receiving the horrible news, and seeing Avner’s invitation
to join him on this trip to Alaska, my immediate reaction
was that I wish I had gone.

Because of this irrationality I cannot explain. Unless you
have felt this passion, I think it is almost impossible to
understand. We use reason in order to reduce the objective
risks. We try to complete the climb in the safest way
possible. But even taking these into consideration, we
knowingly take a huge risk. The overall decision to climb
ignores statistics, or at most helps choose a route. Why, I
cannot explain. A hint might be seen on Avner’s face in the
pictures from his climbs.

It may be best not to try to understand. And yes, he died
doing something he loved. Not for it.

It was great to have known Avner. And I do wish I would have
had the chance to climb with him.

My deepest condolences to Ayelet, the kids and the rest of
the family.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Costis Georgiou

One could say that a successful supervisor is the one who
- teaches you the state-of-the art in his expertise,
- patiently explains to you what it takes to improve,
- listens carefully to all your problems and surprises you with his
And he did all the above.

But I realized that I have a great supervisor when
- I started writing (anything) on the board by drawing first a
circle, as he did,
- I started writing on the white board holding the pen and
keeping it steady by holding on the board with my little finger,
the way he did,
- I laid back in my chair staring at the ceiling, whenever in
deep thoughts, the way he did,
- I placed my little finger in my mouth, whenever I saw a nice
idea on the board, the way he did,
- I stood with my feet distant from each other and with my
hands in my pockets, whenever involved in an interesting
conversation, the way he did.

Namely, when I started trying subconsciously to be like him.

Avner had a tremendous influence on me. After 5 years with
him, there is one thing though that I did not learn from
him. This is how to resist cold. He was always coming to the
department with light clothes. I still remember our
conversation 2 years ago, in a morning after the coldest
night of the winter. He was proud to announce me that the
night before he slept in his backyard, testing his

One last thing that I am proud of. Avner had a terrific
sense of humor. It took me 4 years to learn how to make him
smile with a joke, and it was rewarding. I will always
remember him with that smile.

Teacher and friend, farewell.

Toni Pitassi & Rich Zemel

Avner, you were one of those rare people that you meet and
you know right away that you've met a treasure, someone to
share life's best times.

We have had many fun adventures over the last eight years:
skiing, hiking, climbing, and mostly, laughing. You were
always suggesting new places to go and things to do, and
convincing us that it was worth it to leave at 5 AM.
Meanwhile you tried to convince us that your favorite shows
really were funny, as you recounted the whole episode, not
realizing that you were much funnier than the show itself.

It is hard to know where to start with favorite memories.
But one trademark moment is the day several years back when
you took our kids rock-climbing for the first time. You
tirelessly kept un-roping one, and roping up the next tot,
so that they could climb all of about 10 feet up the rock
face. You were infinitely patient with them and still
managed to impart all the fun and excitement you clearly
felt. Our kids thought they were real mountaineers, and you
were their leader.

You were not only fun but were an ideal friend, a great
listener and full of warmth and compassion. We will miss
you terribly.

We look forward to many future trips together with your
family, with Ayelet and your three terrific kids, who remind
us so much of you. We'll try our hardest to celebrate your
spirit by laughing as often as possible, climbing every
rock, and trying to live life to its fullest.

Miles Pitassi

I have had many great times with Avner and his kids,
especially his kids and his wonderful wife Ayelet who has
always been so nice to me. I feel like I must do something
back to her and her family. I cannot explain with words how
sad I am that Avner and Andrew have passed away. Avner was
always so lively and active and energetic. I felt like he
was one of my great friends because he acted just like a
kid, always wanting to be outside running around and having
fun. I just wanted to share my great times I have had with
Avner and I wish more than anything that he is treated well
wherever he has gone to. Thank you.