Shining stars like Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali and others passed away in 2016. Now in 2017, we’ve already lost another icon.
George. The simple yet beautiful name invokes a thousand emotions in us, especially now that it represents only a memory, a gentle ghost of our past.
We must come to accept the reality of this tragedy: George is no longer with us. His death was sudden and heartbreaking, as WGSD director of technology and maker of the beloved WiFi network Bill Koulouriotis swiftly executed his own creation on Dec. 22, after a six-month plan to replace it with the new guy, Webster.
When students and staff alike came back from winter break to begin learning and teaching once again, it soon became clear that something was not right in the school. Things were quiet and peaceful. Too quiet. Students were unable to access the internet and VPN apps during first hour. The WiFi symbol was not present on most students’ phone screens. Something was very wrong.
By 9 a.m. it had become increasingly evident that George had passed on.
According to WGHS technology coordinator Dan Broshears and district Director of Technology Bill Koulouriotis, George was disposed of in order to increase bandwidth as well as security for students trying to use the internet for school-related activities. Students using George to browse social media, especially at lunch, caused the internet to slow in classes where computers were necessary for coursework. George was replaced by Webster, a more secure network.
“We’ve been running the new one since last May,” Koulouriotis said. “Basically we had upgraded our WiFi to help with power and with more security.”
Students have complained Webster does not allow access to VPN networks and certain sites previously accessible to students. Objections to Webster also include that it hasn’t reached every part of the building.
In the wake of such turbulent times, many of these students have opted to speak out about their experiences and memories of George, paying homage to the iconic network after his tragic death.
Assistant principal John E. Thomas remarked that Koulouriotis’s decision to discontinue the network must have been “like seeing your kid grow up and go to college.” Koulouriotis added, “He has to go out in the world and become a man.”
The analogy isn’t inaccurate. George’s estimated age in the district was around 20, and not only was he created and watched over by Koulouriotis for all those years; he was even named after Koulouriotis’s son, who is now in college.
At Webster Groves High School, we should remember George not for how he went out, but for how he lived his life: with class, with grace, and with yes, a little bit of mystery.
George was a revolutionary concept back in his early years, the 1990s. Brother to Jack and Moon, he was one of the first wireless networks ever installed for the school district.
“When we originally put WiFi in the district, it was really just for school computers,” Koulouriotis said. “Back then, people weren’t walking around with their own personal computers in their pocket.”
George entered the 21st century, surviving Y2K and outliving both his siblings. As the dominant network in the district, the only people who needed him for the next several years were still staff members. Then came along the age of the smartphone.
When students started acquiring devices with internet, the demand for a reliable network grew. George was there as always to answer the call.
Somehow at some point, George’s legendary password, “wh0kn0w5,” was leaked to students, and soon enough the teacher-network had spread to hundreds of adolescents across Webster.
No one appreciated George more than the students. He devoted his service to them, and they devoted their love to him in return. George was never one to think about himself. He was glad to allow students to exploit his benefits of speed and efficiency.
Webster students on George:
“George was a huge loss for the student body and he will be greatly missed. The past few days I’ve heard murmurs throughout the student body. Whispers desperately asking ‘have you seen George?’ and ‘Who do we turn to now?’ and most frighteningly of all, ‘Have you found a new VPN that works yet?’ Pleas. Begging for help. Hoping that they’ll be able to survive without our beloved George. Rest In Peace.”
“George was a dear friend to us all, and his passing is truly the most tragic event of this school year. He has vigilantly tried to protect us from the dangerous sites out in the world wide web, while simultaneously giving us a wink and pointedly turning his head away as we used our VPNs to access the forbidden vaults of Snapchat and Instagram. RIP George, you will be forever in our hearts.”
“George impacted my life in a way I don’t expect anyone to understand..He was the only reliable WiFi that I was able to connect to in the orchestra room. RIP.”
“George offered students an escape from the brutal and harsh conditions that we are forced to endure at Webster Groves High School. Now, without that option, we are forced to learn and pay attention in our classes, without George by our sides. I don’t know how any of us are going to survive. He will forever be remembered; we loved you.”
“My only wish is that his passing was peaceful and painless. He will be deeply missed by all. It’s especially heart wrenching as we are left with no time to mourn; I would have thought for sure they would give us the day off to reminisce about our great friend. Thankfully, next year, I will no longer have to walk these hollow halls now empty without his lively spirit. I feel right now as though I am betraying his memory as I submit this through his replacement, Webster.”
“George was one of the most amazing networks I’ve ever had the pleasure of connecting my phone too, and I’m so thankful I was able to call him a friend. He travelled with me throughout my time in the WGSD and was always there for me in times of trouble. I could always count on him. He will be missed so dearly. Rest In Peace you beautiful soul.”
“I remember in ninth grade when I was able to ask out the most beautiful girl in the school thanks to the fact that George allowed us to use apps like Snapchat. If it wasn’t for that I would probably still be without such an amazing girl.”
“I never saw it coming… Just the other day we were doing our math homework together, and now he’s gone. He was so young…”
“I grew up with George. I even remember him from my elementary school. He was my closest friend- my only friend. I just wish I would’ve told him, before it was too late. RIP George. You will be missed.”
“I think that George was a dear friend to all of us at the high school. To lose him is to lose a part of ourselves.”
George’s legacy will never stop.”
Of the special relationship between George and his users, Koulouriotis said with an eyebrow raised, “I was not aware of this connection.”
George leaves large shoes for Webster to fill. Students could always count on George to speedily search for whatever their hearts desired on the treasure trove that is the internet. He watched us grow as students and as people. He saw us at our best and worst. He saw awful presentations and spotty research; he saw the first time students properly used MLA format and cited sources other than Wikipedia; he saw games of Kahoot get way too intense; he undoubtedly saw his fair share of searches for dumb memes.
No man, woman or network possessed the all-seeing wisdom of George. Let his life be remembered as that of a visionary, one who inspired every life it touched.
As for where we go from here, well … wh0kn0w5?
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