Return of the Guru

Insurance IT Loses a Bright Light

Ara Trembly
Insurance Experts' Forum, December 30, 2010

My plan for this blog was to continue with insightful predictions for insurance IT in 2011, but alas, a terribly sad event here in 2010 must be addressed first. 

A few days ago, several friends contacted me to say that Judy Johnson, lately of Patni Computer Systems, Inc., had passed away due to complications in surgery.   While it is always sad when an industry colleague leaves the planet in an untimely manner, Judy’s passing is particularly poignant to those of us who make our living in the technology space.  She was, quite simply, an icon in our universe. 

I first met Judy some 12 years ago when someone recommended her for a panel I was putting together for one of the industry trade shows.  At that time, she was an analyst with the Meta Group, and when I contacted her, I was expecting more of the same analyst talk I had been hearing for years.  Imagine my surprise when, instead, I was greeted by a bright, enthusiastic and eminently quotable figure whose favorite technical term, I would later learn, was “stupid.” 

For years after her first appearance on one of my panels, I regularly called on Judy to contribute her unassailable expertise, vast knowledge, and wry wit to such events.  Judy offered that rare combination of humor, flash and integrity to all who heard her at conferences, as well as those who read her priceless quotes in the industry media.  As a journalist, I would often delight in playing her off against her then fellow Meta analyst Chuck Johnston, hoping to get them to contradict each other—and sometimes succeeding.  They accepted such occurrences with graceful good humor and, much to my surprise, continued to answer my calls in the future. 

A word about Judy’s favorite technical term as noted above: I can’t remember when she first applied it to some company’s foolish technological behavior, but I do recall that when she seemed at a loss for an apt descriptive term, she finally landed on “stupid!”  This got such a rise out of our seminar audience that it quickly became her stock in trade, and I, for one, couldn’t wait to see who or what would be branded with that particular iron in the future.  Her unique charm, however, was that she could apply that term or similar terms to you or your company and still leave you smiling.  No matter how she berated you, you knew there was a kind heart behind the berating. 

To the many of you who knew and loved Judy as I did, my sincere and heartfelt condolences.  To those of you who never had the pleasure of meeting or hearing Judy, well, you really missed something special.  God doesn’t make too many like our Judy, but we can be thankful for her wonderful contributions to our industry—for an inspiring idea, a new insight, and—always—a chuckle or two. 

Time will roll on and others will take up the task of elucidating, inspiring and tickling the funny bone.  But to say that Judy Johnson will be sorely missed is surely a grandiose understatement.  She was a wonderful friend and a fabulous colleague.  May she rest in peace. 

Comments (6)

Ara - Thanks so much for posting your touching words in honor of our friend and co-conspiritor, Judy. I,too, recall first meeting her as a result of one of the panels we were on together and you being the organizer/moderator. Even as we moved on to other firms, I know that I could count on an opportunity to share a stage with Judy and Chuck, or some other insurance expert at least once a year. I also trusted that I could get an honest opinion from her whenever I needed one. Judy and I got along very well and shared thoughts, ideas, and friendship on stage and off. She was a great person, and a great friend - she will be missed.

Best Regards,

Jamie Bisker
IBM Insurance
Global Team

Posted by: jbisker | January 9, 2011 8:30 PM

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Ara --

Thank you for your beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Judy, a truly remarkable person. Several of us who worked with her at META Group and after are richer for the experience. I remember several calls while she was dealing with health issues; she always focused and carried on with grace, her deep insights, and her wonderful sense of humor. She will, indeed, be missed.


Don Himes

Posted by: don_himes | January 7, 2011 3:49 PM

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My wife and I were shocked when we heard of Judy's death. She worked very closely with Judy and deeply appreciated her talents and humor.

I've known her for years and enjoyed her for her deep professional skills, but also for the hilarious stories she wrote and the wine bottles with Deuce on them.

Joel, please keep us in the loop as to further news of a service, your publications, etc.

Ara - great writing, she really deserves the accolade.

Rick Williams

Posted by: Rick W | January 7, 2011 2:49 PM

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Ara --

Thank you for your wonderful tribute to Judy. You perfectly captured her unique personality, spirit, and insight.

She was a pleasure to work with and a treasure in the industry. She will be missed.

May she rest in peace.

Susan Douglas

Posted by: Susan D | January 4, 2011 4:28 PM

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Thank you, Joel. We appreciate you and your family all the more for sharing your fabulous sister with the rest of us. My prayers are with you and your family in this time, and I'm eager to see what new contributions may come from Judy's inner circle.

Posted by: Ara T | January 2, 2011 11:11 AM

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Dear Mr. Trembly,

My name is Joel Anderson, and I am Judy's youngest brother. I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much my family and I appreciate your beautiful comments on my dear sister.

Judy was indeed a bright and shining star. No matter what she did, she did it with style, panache, and gusto. She was one of the smartest, wittiest people I have ever met, and also one of the funniest. But above all, she had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever known.

This has been an extremely tough time for our family, but I will say that it has been made somewhat easier as we hear from so many of Judy's friends around the country. They have been incredibly supportive, and the amount of response we have received has been overwhelming.

As her brother, I knew what a wonderful person she was. It has been truly heartwarming to find out how many other people knew that as well.

While Judy's star has been dimmed, it is not out. Her family, friends and colleagues will keep it lit in our hearts, and in our memories.

Do not be surprised if in the future something that Judy and I were working on together is published. It does not deal with the Insurance world, but will reveal another of Judy's many talents. Sorry to tease everyone like that, but that is all I can say for now. When the time is right, I will reveal more.

Thank you again for such a wonderful tribute to a wonderful sister and person.


Joel Anderson

Posted by: Joel A | December 31, 2010 4:00 PM

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