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James O. Henriksen (Jim)

posted Apr 15, 2019, 4:26 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Apr 15, 2019, 5:42 AM ]
Information about Jim Henriksen

Obituary for James O. Henriksen 

July 10, 1945 - April 6, 2019

James O. Henriksen, 73, passed away on Saturday, April 6, at home in Lewes, DE, after a hard fought battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Founder and CEO of Wolverine Software Corporation, Jim and his wife, Judy, moved from Alexandria, VA to Lewes in 2011. He anticipated retiring with the move, but never could give up his passion for contributing to the evolving field of computer simulation.

Jim was born in Muskegon, MI, the youngest of three children to parents Anna and Henry Henriksen. He attended public schools in Muskegon and spent summers working in his father's auto glass business, learning mechanical and interpersonal skills that served him the rest of his life.

Jim graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. Degree in 1967. Having already developed a love of percussion while in high school, he joined the Michigan Marching Band and spoke proudly of Michigan's football success that took him to the 1965 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. He remained an avid college football fan forever.

Jim's University of Michigan graduate MBA courses were interrupted in the Spring of 1968 when he was drafted into the US Army. Thinking he was headed to the jungles of Vietnam he, instead, was diverted by special Pentagon order to work with the Safeguard Antiballistic Missile Program. He was given the highest level top secret security clearance allowing work with Critical Nuclear Weapons Design Information. Spending two years in the DC area, Jim grew to love Virginia, happy to be away from the cold and grey Ann Arbor winters. His military service introduced him to people and situations that influenced greatly his career decisions in the months following his discharge in 1970.

In spite of his dislike of the long Ann Arbor winters, Jim returned to Michigan after being invited to work at the Michigan Computing Center. He remained there for four years working as a research and teaching assistant, all the while building his interest in, and ideas for, problem solving using computer simulation software.

In 1974 Jim was happy to return to the DC area, having been offered a job with the large defense contractor, CACI. Within a year, however, he left CACI and founded Wolverine Software Corporation in order to pursue his goal of building a “better mousetrap” in the form of a more powerful simulation program than that previously introduced by IBM. His work in taking on the giant was successful and formed the solid foundation for Jim's future programs including simulation animation. Jim's work has remained prominent in the field of computer simulation for over four decades.

Jim taught graduate level courses for five years as an adjunct professor of computer science for Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Graduate Center. He has given numerous presentations on simulation at conferences, corporations, government organizations, and other universities around the world. His sense of humor was legendary, even when speaking his 2nd language, German. He was fond of saying, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” He had a clear vision of his goals and ideals, always raising the bar by seeking perfection.

Over the course of his career, Jim authored over 50 books and articles and was working currently on what would have been his last work. He was indebted to Jim Wilson for helping him so much in recent months as his health began to fail. Jim also would want to thank Bob Sargent for his on-going support when he most needed it, and Tom Schriber for his advice and friendship over more than half a century.

Of the many awards Jim received over his lifetime, he felt honored to have been selected Titan of the Year and Keynote Speaker for the Winter Simulation Conference held in Monterey, CA in 2006. In 2013, Jim was video interviewed as a Simulation Pioneer for the Computer Simulation Archive located at North Carolina State University Libraries. And, in December 2018, in Gothenburg, Sweden, Jim was given the prestigeous Lifetime Professional Achievement Award by INFORMS, premier international computer society with over 10,000 members.

Jim also enjoyed a variety of activities outside his professional endeavors. He loved keeping fit and worked out regularly at a gym. He enjoyed competition on all levels and played a fierce game of racquetball. In earlier years he participated in sailboat races on the Chesapeake Bay. He was a hiker and a bicyclist who loved exploring new parks and trails. He loved his dogs, of which there were many over the years. Jim never gave up his love of classical music and volunteered in several concert bands, including the Virginia Grand Military Band, commuting back to Alexandria to play Timpani and other percussion at the Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center.

Jim developed lasting professional relationships and loyal friendships all over the world. Known by all who met him for his brilliance, patience and kindness, Jim was a special man who made a difference in the world, his community, and in the individual lives of many.

Survivors include his wife, Judy (Merrill) Henriksen; his brother Richard (Rosemary) Henriksen of Traverse City, MI; brother in law, John Seelman of North Muskegon, MI; many nephews; and goddaughter niece, Christine (Robert) Koman of North Muskegon. His sister, Mary Ann Seelman predeceased him in 2013.

A private service for Jim will be held in June in Michigan. At a later date, a few close friends will gather in Alexandria to share a meal and memories.

Suggestions for donations in Jim's memory are the Lewes Fire Department, 347 E. Savannah Road, Lewes, DE 19958, Faithful Friends, Inc., 12 Germay Drive, Wilmington, DE 19804, or a charity of your choice.

Tribute Wall for Jim Henriksen
April 15, 2019

  • JL

    I met Jim when he became my boss at the University of Michigan Computing Center --- he was in charge of the Computing Center counsellors when I became a Computing Center counsellor. His wit and common sense were always much appreciated. Later, he arranged for an interview for me at CACI which led to my first job in the DC area ( but like Jim, I left CACI within a year for another opportunity). I remember his love of music, and a well-spun story with a good punch-line, and trying to figure out how something really works, and always, the University of Michigan. And I well remember how happy Jim was when he met Judy in their townhouse community, and how their whole happy story together evolved. With deepest condolences to Judy and Jim's family, Jurate Maciunas Landwehr

Jurate Landwehr - 9 hours ago

  • JS

    Jim was a great friend and a real inspiration to me. Lots of us remember him as the coach of the Computing Center softball teams -- both men and coed. We had some really memorable times. I called him coach for the next 40 years, and only partly because of the softball team. I overlapped Jim in the Marching Band for his last 2 years (my first 2) and we talked band stories ever since. Most impactful to me, though, was his creation of GPSS/H, his compiler for GPSS. It ran 10 times faster than IBM's GPSS, and was the proof of concept I used when making a compiler for Verilog, another simulation language. When you know the idea is sound, it makes development a whole lot easier. Jim did it first. He was one of the (quiet) giants of the UM Computing Center -- a key contributor to making it the great place it was.

    John Sanguinetti - 10 hours ago
  • CW

    Dinner parties, wine, laughter of Judy and my old school day tales from elementary and high school. Loved when Jim would hold us spell bound with a well delivered joke of his. I always had a joke for him but not as well told as his. We both had strong Scandinavian ancestry. His Norwegian mine Swedish. We kidded each other about this. George and I will miss you Jim and we will always remember our fun times.

    Caryl Williams - Yesterday at 10:41 AM
  • MA

    With Jim I lose not only a brilliant business partner and an extraordinary customer-oriented software vendor. I lose a true friend. Without Jim, I would not be where I am today. It was Jim who introduced me to Gordon, who eventually hired me nearly 17 years ago.

    Jim was that kind of guy who could "talk" to computers and make them do what HE wanted them to do. In nearly 2 decades I have been working with Jim, I never ran into a problem with SLX or Proof which he was not capable of fixing in the very same day.

    Jim was not only a phenomenal programmer, he had also a great sense of humour. A couple of anecdotes from his presentations: in one, still using transparency sheets with an overhead projector, he had drawn a hand on the side of the sheet. We all thought it was his own hand, holding the sheet on the side. When he walked away from the sheet and the "hand" stayed, most of the people in the audience looked puzzled (myselft included).

    In another presentation, years later, he created an animation and the word SLX turned into the word SEX for a very short time every so many seconds. Again, most people in the audience thought they were having hallucinations.

    I'd like to close this short memory with one of Jim's famous principles (from his Titans Speech "Taming the Complexity Dragon" at WSC): according to Jim, a good software needs to satisfy the "Principle of Least Astonishment", i.e. be intuitive and do not astonish the customer. An example of a violation of such principle? Going to START when you want to switch OFF a computer.

    Godspeed Jim, I will miss you. Judy, a big big hug to you.

    Marco - April 09 at 04:31 PM
  • GR
    I’ll never forget when Jim & Judy came all the way to Illinois to attend the funeral of my first wife, and then came over to my house to meet my relatives. Jim rendered my mother-in-law speechless when he said he learned how to swim when his parents threw him in the water. When my mother-in-law exclaimed “How terrible...” Jim replied in classic JOH humor “it wasn’t so bad...once I got out the bag I was in, the rest was easy.” All who knew Jim has a JOH story and all will miss him. Gordon


    Gordon Rehn - April 09 at 01:08 AM

From: "jurate.landwehr"
Subject: Fwd: Sad News
Date: April 8, 2019 at 11:15:13 PM EDT
To: gpirkola, "john.sanguinetti"
Cc: Carl Landwehr

Gary,  John,

We just got this sad email from Judy Henriksen.  As Judy says,  pls feel free to pass the word along to those you know who might be interested.

Best, Jurate

Begin forwarded message:

From: Judy Henriksen
Subject: Sad News
Date: April 8, 2019 at 9:35:29 PM EDT
To: "jurate.landwehr", Carl Landwehr

I just want to let you know that Jim passed away at home early Sat morning,  result of his Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.  His health had declined quite a bit from when you visited and he no longer could walk or do anything on his computers.  He was so miserable and struggled to take every breath.  I thought we had a couple more months, but it was not to be.

There will be no public memorial event in Lewes, just a family service in Michigan in June.  Then, later in the summer, I plan to do something in Alexandria in a park or garden in Alexandria, again, not an event, just a very few close friends.

I am OK, but in shock still, and have so many loose ends having to do with Wolverine, etc.  Jim thought he had a little more time, too.

Hope all is well with you both and that Carl's mother is doing OK.

I apologize for the email, but wanted to give you the news from me before you heard it from others.  Feel free to pass the word along to those you know who might be interested.

So glad you got to visit us in Lewes when you did.


From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Fwd: Jim Henriksen's Obituary
Date: April 14, 2019 at 5:52:56 PM EDT
To: Thursday Dinner

I think many of you knew (or at least knew of) Jim.  He was a class act and will be missed.


Begin forwarded message:

From: Thomas J Schriber
Subject: Jim Henriksen's Obituary
Date: April 14, 2019 at 10:50:25 AM EDT

Hello All ... some of you knew and maybe even worked with "computer guy" Jim Henriksen in the 1960s and 1970s ... Jim died April 6th, at age 73, of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis ... here is the link for his obituary, for those who might be interested ... he was a moving force in the area of discrete-event simulation:


Best wishes,