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Cyril’s Last Post January 7, 2008

Posted by Cyril Brookes in General.

Sadly on Wednesday December 13 Cyril died in a tragic accident at home. He was standing outside his house while a load of timber was being delivered. Somehow that load came loose and fell upon him. He died shortly after.  We understand he suffered no pain.

Cyril Brookes was a distinguished professor, engineer, businessman, student, and author.  A lover of travelling, fly-fishing, good wine and spicy laksa.

It is often said that in the end a man will not be judged by what he says, he will be judged by his actions. My father’s actions were carried out with honour, respect and devotion. 

To lose him in such a sudden and shockingly incomprehensible way is devastating. 

Dr CHP Brookes was born in  Sydney 1938. His parents had emigrated from Chicago in 1929. His father was sent to establish the Sunbeam corporation here in Australia.

My father Cyril or, “little Cyril” as he was originally known was their only child.

In 1949 the family  moved to a colonial property with a beautiful gothic sandstone homestead built in 1887.  This was to be our family home for almost 40 years. Dad never could go back there after we left, such was his affection for it.

Cyril was a student at Riverview from 1950-55. Following on to complete a Bachelors and Masters degree in Electrical Engineering with first class honours from the University of Sydney

In 1962 Dad was awarded a scholarship to St Edmund Hall, Oxford University to study his Doctorate. His thesis entitled “Adaptive Control Systems” is legendary amongst some circles. (Mostly whose members carry a three pen set in their top pocket?)

My father was a man born out of a past generation, a generation which admired academic and intellectual achievement, far more than we do so today. His breadth and depth of knowledge was truly astounding.

From the science of business information, to the art of drinking fine wine, to the correct method of priming the dam pump. He excelled. 

Despite being born in an older world he did not become lost as that world changed so rapidly, he adapted to become successful in the modern corporate world. 

In 1964-he joined BHP and over the next 10 years he became the first senior executive in charge of information technology. By 1972 he was responsible for the entire computing function of the company, with computer installations at six locations in Australia and a staff of over 1,000.

Dad once told me how in late 60s as a young man he was asked by the BHP management to head to the US and oversee the purchase of a new computer system.

This task carried much responsibility, with a budget of one million dollars. an enormous sum in those days…

Story goes that nearing the end of an extensive journey across the computing hotspots in the US. the local consultant announced there was a big problem. The budget.. They had too much left over!. Over the next few days. Staying at the Plaza Hotel in New York ,cases of champagne  were ordered, and the budget problem was over. Cyril knew when a party was needed. My family hope many of you will join us this afternoon celebrate his life. 

Perhaps Cyril’s defining moment came in 1974 when at only 36 he was  appointed the foundation Professor of Information Systems at the University of New South Wales,  over the next 20 years  he built up one of the world’s largest schools of applied information technology, with over 30 academic staff and 1,000 students. He taught all aspects of the application of computer systems to business and the government, with special emphasis on corporate computer strategies.

He published many papers in this field, and more recently outlined his thoughts through his regular internet blog. “Cyril on business intelligence” 

It was this research work which enabled him to move into the corporate world.

Cyril formed Grapevine Technologies Limited in 1987, to develop and market the software product which evolved from his research. The technology was adopted by many large global corporations and the operations of the company were successfully sold to a US corporation in November 2000.

More recently he established EIS Pathfinder with my brother Richard. Together they developed a unique methodology for determining the requirements for business reporting systems.  

A lifetime devoted to the development of information technology and knowledge management. He was truly a teacher and ahead of his time.

Our modern world in obsessed with lists, lists stating who is the most beautiful or richest for the year. In 2003 my dad made one of those lists. The Bulletin declared that he was one of the top 100 smartest Australians, recognised in his field of information technology.

If it’s possible to measure a man’s life in a single word, then I think the word to best describe my father would be devotion – to his wife, his family and his passions. He lived life to the full and sadly died too soon for us. We were lucky to be the recipients of his devotion and our world has been a better place because of his teachings. At the very least, we all know how to fix a pump!

Dad, we love you dearly, rest well and in peace.

The Brookes Family.