Steven Gregory Parker

1968 ~ 2024

Steven Gregory Parker, a man of profound intellect, remarkable wisdom, unwavering kindness, and boundless curiosity, embarked on his final journey on May 2nd, 2024, leaving behind a legacy of love and innovation that will forever resonate in the hearts of those who knew him. Surrounded by the embrace of his family, Steven passed away peacefully at his home in Draper, Utah, after a battle with brain cancer, closing the chapter of a life richly lived and deeply cherished.

Born to Gregory and Jeanene Parker in Fort Benning, Georgia, Steven's early years were defined by a deep curiosity and desire to learn. As the oldest of eight siblings, he learned the value of compassion, patience, and service from an early age. His upbringing, shaped by love and loyalty, instilled in him a deep sense of family values and hard work that would guide him throughout his life's journey.

It was during his formative years in Norman, Oklahoma, that his passion for learning and exploration truly blossomed. Through self-study and perseverance, he cultivated his abilities in electronics, computers, and art. He developed a passion for classic and exotic automobiles. After school, he could be found fixing, restoring, or racing cars with family and friends, writing code or improving the efficiency of computer programs for his teachers, or creating designs for sports cars and sculpting them in modeling clay. Steven pursued his passions through post-secondary education, earning a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1992, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science from the University of Utah in 1999.

His passion for computer graphics led to the creation of state-of-the-art algorithms in real-time ray tracing and related computer graphics fields throughout his career, as well as to multiple patents and “Best Paper” awards. While serving on the faculty at the University of Utah, he created the Center for Interactive Ray-Tracing and Photo Realistic Visualization and later co-founded a start-up called RayScale. Those efforts led him to NVIDIA, where he became the Vice President of Professional Graphics. An expert in high-performance parallel computing, scientific computing, artificial intelligence, and computer graphics, Steven solved problems that many deemed impossible. He was thus recognized by his peers as one of the most talented computer research scientists in the world. He was the technical genius behind NVIDIA’s RTX, real-time ray tracing technology now used in games and movies, which many experts had thought was at least a decade away. Through applied graphics, he made meaningful contributions in the fields of physics, chemistry, and medical science. For his work and service, he received several major awards, including the Honors Medal from Computer World and an honorary doctorate of engineering from the University of Utah. He was also named as one of HPCWire’s “People to Watch.”

Throughout his career, Steven mentored and encouraged the next generation of engineers and computer scientists. Despite his extraordinary professional success, Steven was humble, always acknowledging those who contributed to projects or supported him through the journey. Of the many colleagues, mentors, family members, and friends who supported Steven, none was more influential than his wife, MeriAnn. She was the love of his life and supported him every step of his journey–particularly the last 7 months of his earthly life–rarely leaving his side. Steven and MeriAnn met in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1996 and were married in 2001. They found strength and joy in their partnership, forging a bond that outlasts time.

Steven lived a life of service with his family, his church, and his community. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Auckland, New Zealand where his spiritual convictions deepened. He served on the board of directors for the Clark Planetarium, as a member of the Engineering National Advisory Council, several program committees for major computer conferences, and on advisory boards for the College of Engineering at the University of Utah. Steven also co-led the campaign committee for the John and Marcia Price Computing and Engineering building at the University of Utah. In 2024, he was awarded a Lifetime Service Award from the Price College of Engineering at the University of Utah for his efforts.

Steven also took time for the small but important moments in life. He was never too busy to spend time with his family, to be a listening ear, or to guide his family with patience and wisdom. Nothing could compete with his love for his wife, MeriAnn, and his four daughters: Morgan, Alyssa, Amber, and Elena. He was always present at special events in his children’s and grandchildren’s lives and enjoyed spending time with them doing things they found important or interesting. He also shared his passions with his family. They were often outdoors –skiing, cycling, or exploring new places. He enjoyed traveling with them, finding unique and quirky sights, and experiencing exceptional cuisine. As a culinary enthusiast with an adventurous palate, he also enjoyed cooking with his family. He found joy in experimenting with new recipes, savoring exotic flavors, and sharing the gift of food with those he loved. His kitchen was a place where memories were made, and traditions were honored.

In addition to being a devoted husband and father, Steven cherished time with his parents, brothers, sisters, and extended family. He loved both of his parents and all of his siblings. Steven learned about cars, computers, and putting others first from his dad. His mother taught him to be strong through hard times and to hold onto his faith. Growing up, Steven had a unique connection with his younger brother, Mike. They were inseparable, working on hobbies and hanging out together with friends. As adults, they would often be found sharing inside jokes and solving the problems of the world in hushed conversations. Not only were they brothers, they were best friends. Steven also had a special bond with his Grandma Edna, which developed when he lived with her as a young child and again in college. He honored her by keeping strong connections with his extended family, as well as organizing and hosting family reunions. His legacy of compassion and generosity will continue to inspire all who were fortunate enough to know him.

Steven knew who he was and didn’t waver from what inspired him. Throughout his life, he was committed to and enjoyed spending time with his childhood friends. He loved penguins, Energy Vitamin Water, Robert Graham clothing, biking, skiing, driving fast cars, being outdoors, and all things related to his favorite color, purple. Forever in our hearts, Steven’s memory will guide us to live each day intentionally with altruism, loyalty, compassion, and a thirst for discovery.

Steven is survived by his wife, MeriAnn Parker, his children, Morgan (Nathan) Mabey, Alyssa (Brian) Vance, Amber Parker, and Elena Parker, his grandchildren James Ashdown, Makayla Ashdown, Zoe Ashdown, Maximus Vance, and Amelia Vance, his parents, Jeanene Hale and Gregory Parker, his siblings, Michael (Katie) Parker, Sheryl Tatum (Bret) Bradley, Jennifer Horn, Tamara Parker, Marilyn (Alen) Howard, William (Christine) Parker, and Christopher (Christy) Parker, his parents-in-law Ronaele and Larry Freestone, his sisters-in-law, Sheri (Justin) Swart, Keri (Kenneth) Martinez, and Lori (Neil) Sood, and many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

He is preceded in death by his four grandparents, Byron Nelson Parker, Edna Matilda Dalton, Ernest Carlyle Hale, and Alice Chaus, his brother-in-law Kelly Raymond Horn (Jennifer), his sister-in-law Rebecca Marie Parker (William), and several aunts, uncles, and cousins.

A celebration of Steven's life will be held on Saturday, May 18th, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 1911 East Gray Fox Drive, Draper, Utah. Closed-casket visitation will take place from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, followed by a family meeting and prayer from 10:30 AM to 11:00 AM, and a funeral service from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM. He will be laid to rest at Valley View Memorial Park, 4335 West 4100 South, West Valley City, Utah. Please wear purple in honor of Steven.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Steven G. Parker Memorial Scholarship at https://price.utah.edu/parker

To watch the services remotely via Zoom please click the blue "Watch Services" tab at the top of the obituary.


Guestbook/Condolences

45 years of knowing Steven was not enough. I loved you as a child and am proud of you as a man. Rest in peace.


- Anita Torres

Dear Family and friends of Steven Parker ,
Our sympathy to you and yours and to all of us at the loss of such a warm, unique brilliant man…We feel the pain left over our loss of Steven. We know he is free from suffering and for this we are thankful! He will be missed..he is loved and we know he is in a better place! He is enjoying the many loved ones who have been waiting for his arrive!
Our love and prayers are sent at this time to add comfort and tears in our loss of Steven!
He now is Heaven’s gain! And our loss!
Sincerely, Joyce Parker/ Byron Parker (deceased)


- Joyce Parker/Byron Parker (Pete) deceased

I am so sorry for your loss. I worked with Steve in the 2000's on a DOE project that combined people from national laboratories and academics, and he was a remarkable person. He was brilliant and yet was always humble. He was so kind, and I could tell that he cared deeply for his students. It's so sad that he's no longer with us.


- Tom Epperly

I met Steve when I was working abroad and he helped me in many different ways. Steve was truly a great person and everyone who has ever worked with him or met him is going to miss him.

Rest in peace Steve.


- Marco Alesiani

I had the good pleasure of working with Steve at NVIDIA in the SLC office since 2013. I appreciated his mentoring and direction. He will be missed.


- Brandon Lloyd

Steve and I did a lot of work together and started a business together and they were wonderful experiences for me. He was certainly a brilliant collaborator but the thing I liked best about him is that he was both funny and fun; no matter how stressful or intense the deadline or task, he somehow made it play for us. Our time working together will always be cherished memories to me and bring a smile to my face.


- Peter Shirley

So sorry to see this notice. Such a sweet guy. We are so sorry for your loss. That's a great picture of him.


- John and Carol Drayton

I'm so sorry to learn this today. May him rest in peace. I will be forever indebted to his teaching and advices to my PhD thesis at the University of Utah, while I was a student working on my ray tracing radiation model. Steve was such a great professor and mentor with tremendous knowledge, patience and kindness. He spent a lot of time going thru my code line by line guiding me to make it more efficient. He provided me with reference books , connected me with his graduate students to work together. I will miss you deeply. What a great loss.


- Paula Sun

Thank you Steve for the support, guidance, help and love you had for me and for all people in our field. We are blessed to have been part of your life and vision.
Thank you for going through all the hard battles, for having the conviction and for being a giant offering his shoulder for others.
Rest in peace. You will be missed.


- Blago Taskov

I can’t believe you’re gone, Steve. Our early days at SCI are some of my favorite memories – you were always a great colleague and an incredible friend. Thank you. You’ve left behind a tremendous legacy – through the lives you’ve enriched and the work you pioneered. We miss you.


- David Weinstein

My condolences to Steve’s family. So sorry to hear this tragic news.


- Sameer Shende

What a lovely memorial. We won't forget him.


- Katharine Coles

My condolences to the the family of Elder Parker (as I knew him). I'm sorry for your loss.


- Todd Halversen

Steve was such an inspiration for us all at Nvidia, such a smart person. All my condolence to the family.


- Tristan Lorach

Steve made this world better. He was so brilliant and kind. Generous with his time and his knowledge.

Some people wonder if they ever made an impact on this world. Steve does not have that problem.
It was an honor to know you Steve.

Fare thee well..


- Floyd Clark

I first saw Steve who was (unnecessarily) taking my Computer Architecture class at Utah and later (again unnecessarily) doing his oral PhD comprehensive exam. Then I adored Steve being my brilliant faculty colleague and privileged to admire his visionary Uintah software design. I had no doubt that much greater things were yet to come - and sure enough - the world knows about it now. His work will be remembered for the monumental impact yet to come! I've never known such a towering figure who knew where the strength was derived from (as evidenced by his staring at assembly code - seeing the tower above benefit from its qualities). At a personal level, there was nothing short of laser-like focus and humble responses when one conversed. He gave such a memorable speech at the IEEE Milestone Event held in Utah - crystal-clear advice targeted at the young but worth assimilating by those of all ages. This is a huge loss going beyond his immediate family - but let's derive strength by reminiscing one of the conversations we were lucky to have had. I wish to close with my heartfelt condolences to his wife and children, brother Mike, and all others near and dear.


- Ganesh Gopalakrishnan

A man of honor. A man of great service and ethic. A great leader and friend. Steve, you will not be forgotten. Your kindness and dedication to others and their happiness will be shared onward with others through my life. Your passion for creating amazing taste and inclusion of flavors from across the world travel with you as you take on this next step of your journey. Our time together was beautiful and memorable in every sense. I listened and learned from you and am forever grateful. May your family find peace and have your guidance as they embrace this ever changing world. Love you my dear friend. Anuj.


- Anuj Aggarwal

Steve,

This isn’t fair. I miss you. We all miss you. You’ve touched and improved so many lives, I feel pretty lucky to be among them. Thank you for being a wonderful mentor and friend. Thank you for your example, your dedication, your curiosity, and your endless optimism. Thank you for investing in me. I know you invested in a lot of people, and I hope we can all continue to make you proud. Your trust and patience and long term view of people is an amazing strength and maybe the one trait of yours among many that I most aspire to emulate. Happy trails, Steve. I really hope to catch up with you on the other side.

All my love


- David Hart

I have had the honour and privilege to know the Parker family for 50 years, a truly remarkable and exceptionally modest family. I remember Steven's Oklahoma days working with his brother Michael and his dad Gregory on beyond-state-of-the-art programming that was truly inspirational (and well beyond my understanding). As he says in his University of Utah honourary degree lecture, true creators freely pay tribute to the giants on whose shoulders we all stand. Steven is one of those giants, standing and likewise supporting. My deepest condolences to the family.


- Mark Keil and family

I first corresponded with Steve back in 1999, asking for more details while writing about some of his work in an informal online magazine I once compiled, "The Ray Tracing News." In one article (in vol. 12, no. 1), for a paper he coauthored with Brian Smits and Peter Shirley, I noted: "Interestingly enough, none of the three authors exactly knows which one of them invented it!" Which fits my continued view of Steve, as someone who was excited to discover new things and not worrying along the way if he got credit.

Steve was my manager at NVIDIA for these past five years. He was more a collaborator in practice. I miss our near-weekly discussions of problems and solutions, and I could rely on him to point me towards areas that would interest me and fit my strengths. I miss him in many ways. I offer my condolences to the family, and thank you for the detailed account of his life.


- Eric Haines

My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Thankful that families are forever and you will be with him again. Love you all.


- Diana McDanel

Steve was a brilliant scientist and an amazingly kind person. I am honored to have know him and to have briefly work with him. My heartfelt condolences.


- Manish Parashar

I was fortunate enough to work with Steve in the early days of SCI. While Steve was obviously a brilliant scientist and an incredible programmer, he was also so much more than that. Steve was extremely patient and humble, he encouraged curiosity and inspired all of us. I have fond memories for those formative years, and Steve played an outsized role in them. My heart goes out to his family and friends, he leaves an amazing legacy and had a huge impact on so many of us. I am a better person for having known him and I miss him dearly.


- Peter-Pike Sloan

I am saddened to hear of Steve's passing. Steve was incredible as a student, colleague and researcher and though our paths have not crossed in many years, my memories of him are strong. I know he touched many lives. Deepest condolences to his family and friends.


- Jamie Painter