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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Allan McCutcheon RIP

I'm saddened today to learn of the untimely death of my friend and colleague Allan McCutcheon. I first met Allan in 1992 when we were  teaching at the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis. Allan taught a course on latent-class analysis and I taught a course on log-linear models so we immediately had a common interest. 

We were part of a little group of instructors, including, among others, Neal Beck, Harold Clarke, Jörg Blasius, Peter Schmidt and Steffen Kühnel who, after the work was done, would chew the cud    over a bottle of wine before cramming into my tiny Peugeot and heading off into the Essex countryside in search of a good dinner.

Everyone warmed to Allan. He was a true gentleman, generous with his time (especially with students) and unfailingly enthusiastic about whatever he was doing or currently reading ( which was just about everything). He always wanted to learn something new and he was one of those people who just had a lust for life. It was inspiring  to see him again every year and hear about his latest hobby or interest: flying, long-distance swimming, cookery, fine wines, sky-diving, fast cars...

Professionally I learned a lot from him, especially about the dark art of estimating latent class models. Allan was the first person to show me Jeroen Vermunt's Lem program for categorical data analysis. That must have been back in 1993. He had already mastered all the tricks  and to me it was real eye opener. I retired my copy of GLIM and became a convert. 

We contributed a jointly authored chapter on categorical data analysis to a volume celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Essex Summer School and he was a joy to write with. I found  money from somewhere to invite him over to London, got him to give a seminar and we spent a bit of time sorting out data for our examples and probably more time sampling dining opportunities. A couple of weeks later I received the draft of his part of the piece and soon we were done.

Reading all the Facebook tributes pouring in today, many from former students as well as from friends and family, you can get a sense of  just how many lives Allan touched and how much of a difference he made. I don't know how Allan would like to be remembered, but this is how I will remember him, having fun and treating life as an awfully big adventure.