Nature 05

Gary Gordon Christoph

June 25, 1945 ~ July 3, 2021 (age 76)

Obituary

On July 3, 2021, just eight days after his 76th birthday, Gary Gordon Christoph flew his final flight into the sunset. He passed away peacefully at his home in Columbia, Maryland, surrounded by his beloved wife, Chris Christoph, and cherished daughter, Catherine Frates.  [1] 

Gary is survived by his wife, Christine L. B. Christoph, his daughter Catherine A. C. Frates, his two grandchildren, Zander E. Frates and Alric T. Frates, and his brother, Greg E. Christoph. He also leaves behind a large network of treasured extended family members and esteemed friends whom he held dear to his heart and are too numerous to list.

Gary was an avid private pilot who loved punching holes in the clouds and greasing a landing. He also collected butterflies and enjoyed solving complex puzzles like a good crossword puzzle or a stimulating game of chess or Scrabble. He loved to teach, helping others discover new concepts and ideas, always with a knowing wink and a mischievous smile. To everyone’s delight, he always had unique puns or stories ready for any occasion.

He excelled in multiple careers, re-inventing himself as challenges arose, yet remained modest and had an uncanny ability to interact as a friend with anyone, no matter the crowd, education, or skill level. Despite all his lifetime achievements and his love of hand-tied bow ties, he was a humble man, not above cooking breakfast for guests as he explained the chemical reactions taking place. He would downplay many of his accomplishments both as a researcher and in management as team efforts, ensuring that contributors got their fair credit.

Gary was born June 25, 1945, in Evanston, IL to adoring parents Gordon E. and Grace C. (née Scherr) Christoph. He attended Taft High School in Chicago, where he graduated valedictorian in 1963 and earned the promotion to Captain in his Army ROTC unit. Gary’s study of birds, bugs, and butterflies[2]  led to an internship at the Chicago Academy of Science, collecting, categorizing, and mounting insects for display. At age 15, he started a business, American Entomological Supplies, making and selling nets and supplies for other collectors.

He earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1967, followed by an M.S. (1969) and a Ph.D. (1971) in Chemical Physics from the University of Chicago. After completing a rigorous research program, he returned to CalTech as a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow and member of the CalTech faculty. In that innovative environment among Nobel prize recipients, he excelled researching the structure and function of enzymes and polypeptides. Besides his research, he joined friends and colleagues in search of new bird sightings to add to their Birding Life Lists.

Gary was awarded the Ashland Oil Foundation Professorship and became an Associate Professor of Physical and Inorganic Chemistry at the Ohio State University in 1974, as well as a Visiting Research Scientist at 3M Corporation. He contributed to projects featured as Science magazine cover articles in 1975 and 1981.

Gary earned his private pilot’s license in 1979 and maintained a lasting friendship with his instructor, Walter Cooner. He would build up 2,482 hours in the cockpit by his final flight in 2014, visiting dozens of airports in towns and cities across the country, sometimes stopping just to add butterflies to his collection.

In 1982, Gary moved to New Mexico to become a Technical Staff member at Los Alamos National Lab performing and publishing advanced research at the LANSCE facility. He then served seven years as an operating systems engineer for Cray Supercomputers and was elected Treasurer and member of the Board of Directors of the Cray Users Group, Inc. He organized and operated international Cray conferences and successfully lobbied Cray Research to change their corporate direction on OS security. This led to an invitation from the French government to co-teach a three-week course on Internet Security near Paris with Professor Eugene Spafford.

He became the Chief Systems Security Officer for the LANL Integrated Computing Network in 1995 and was instrumental in its first formal accreditation for classified computing. He led a team advising the Social Security Administration on Internet security issues and assisted system design development for a national PKI facility for the USPS. For LANL, he won the contract to perform project management for a multi-million-dollar data-mining project to detect fraud and abuse in Medicare claims.

In 1997, Gary became the CIO and Director of their Office of Information Services at the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA, now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS) to bring new IT technologies and management approaches to the agency, achieving the rank of SES Level 3. He initiated a program to modernize all IT systems at CMS, writing and marketing his vision of IT to HHS executives, OMB, and Congressional staff. He led the successful renovation of CMS systems for Y2K, with a scope that touched hospitals and providers across the country and wrote the agency’s Master Security Plan. Under his leadership, the agency became one of the first non-military agencies to perform third-party security testing of its infrastructure. He testified and briefed members of Congress, Congressional staff, and Presidential appointees on agency IT developments and issues, and his team wrote many of the regulations that implemented HIPAA’s data security and privacy provisions. Gary and Chris decided to tie the knot one morning in the midst of this controlled chaos and were married on November 30, 1998, at the Ellicott City Courthouse in Maryland.

Forever seeking new challenges and opportunities to use his expertise to help make significant improvements, Gary became a member of the federal government’s Information Technology Resources Board. He performed as a project management and security specialist performing reviews and analysis at the request of OMB for troubled major government IT projects.

As the COO and Deputy Director for the Center for Information Technology at the National Institute of HealthGary managed the NIH corporate network infrastructure, bringing new technology into legacy environments and personally wrote the first NIH enterprise Master Network Security Plan.

In 2003, Gary embraced the challenges of entrepreneurship. An exceptionally talented former intern, Michael Neuman, and his wife, Diana, invited Gary to co-found their new security firm, Seclarity, Inc., developing a novel technological approach to network security. He served as Seclarity’s COO and then Senior VP for Government and Healthcare.

At Teradata Government Systems, Gary was a Senior Industry Consultant, supporting government business development in healthcare, data warehousing, and data mining. In 2011, Gary was co-issued patent number 8,027,993 with David O. Holmes, also of Teradata, by the US Patent Trademark Office for Techniques for Establishing and Enforcing Row-Level Database Security. He became a member of the Technical Advisory Panel supporting the AHRQ/NGA Collaborative of 35 states, aiming to reduce barriers to security and privacy in health information exchanges (HISPC).

With such a breadth of knowledge and experience, Gary became an HHS Client Executive for Northrop Grumman functioning as a Thought Leader, providing strategic insight and expertise for their growing healthcare IT organization. He was instrumental in winning the SSA/ITSSC contract sought by other corporations, such as Lockheed Martin. He continued to serve on the Technical Advisory for HISPC.

After an early retirement, Gary continued as a Senior Technical Consultant to large and small system integrators for healthcare and IT management until his illness began debilitating his once extraordinary talents.

If Gary could be summed up with a few words, they would be: honor, humility, compassion, brilliance, curiosity, elan. Despite all his working responsibilities and numerous accomplishments, he still made time for family. Whether it was a camping trip complete with gourmet meals in the middle of the wilderness, taking a quick flight for a “$100 hamburger,” discovering new sights and experiences on a mountain hike, or catching fish from his childhood summer home lake, he always took time to smell the roses and enjoy the zest of life to its fullest. Some of his fondest memories were taking weekend flight getaways with Chris to a bed and breakfast and creating museum-quality butterfly and insect displays with his daughter, Catherine.

A Celebration of Life for Christoph will be held at the Donaldson Funeral Home of Clarksville, Maryland, on Sunday, August 1, 2021, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. At 12:00 pm, everyone is invited to join in Reflections to tell of the experiences they shared with Gary during his eventful lifetime.

For planning purposes, please RSVP with the number of people attending the Celebration to gchristoph.memoriam@gmail.com.

Gary died of complications related to a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease known as PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy). In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made in his name to Cure PSP, a registered 501(c)(3) charity, which is the leading organization working to improve awareness, care, and cure for devastating prime-of-life neurodegenerative diseases. Donations can be made at https://www.psp.org.

To send flowers to Gary's family, please visit our floral store.


Services

Celebration of Life
Sunday
August 1, 2021

11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Donaldson Funeral Home of Clarksville, P. A.
12540 Clarksville Pike, Rt 108
Clarksville, Maryland 21029
Guaranteed delivery before the Celebration of Life begins

Time of Remembrance
Sunday
August 1, 2021

12:00 PM
Donaldson Funeral Home of Clarksville, P. A.
12540 Clarksville Pike, Rt 108
Clarksville, Maryland 21029
Guaranteed delivery before the Time of Remembrance begins

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