In memoriam: Thank you, Whit.


I remain, as do so many people in the extended Adobe family, in sad disbelief at the passing of our dear friend Whitney McCleary—warm wit, defender of the little guy, fighter for what’s right, twinkling soul—on New Year’s Eve following a long illness.

I struggle to find the right words—any words, really—to share here, and yet I just don’t feel like writing about anything else for a while. I think she wouldn’t want us to dwell too long in sorrow—I think instead of good Irish wakes, full of laughter and tears—but it’s right to pause for just a bit.

Perhaps you didn’t know Whit personally, but if you’ve spent any time as an Adobe customer, she probably touched your life in some small, positive way. To say just that she marketed InDesign, Creative Suite, and imaging apps seems like absurdly short shrift. As folks are pouring onto Facebook to say, Whitney was always quick to take a chance, support a new creative conference, find work for a promising designer. Her love of creative people & delight in helping them was infectious.

Big companies are inherently bonkers, I think, and I’d always look to Whitney to cut through fog & silliness. As my old Photoshop boss Maria puts it, “I don’t know what we’ll do when we can’t call her mobile in a crisis. I keep thinking ‘What would Whit do?’ and a silly smile comes to my face.”

Oh, Whit—we miss you terribly. Thank you for making things better, for so many people over so many years. May we all aspire to do the same, with even half the good cheer you did. God bless.

39 thoughts on “In memoriam: Thank you, Whit.

  1. Thank you john for putting into eloquent words what many of us are feeling. I feel blessed and grateful to have known Whitney and had the chance to work with her. She is all that you described and more. Heaven has gained an amazing angel while we on earth have lost a beautiful soul. She will be truly missed and always loved.

  2. Terribly sad news – I worked with Whitney in 2006 and she was great to work with, a real personality, bright and vivacious. Very sad to hear this.

  3. Whitney always blew me away with her kindness and smarts. I loved working with her and being anywhere near her. She is a beautiful soul and we are all better knowing her. Thank you for writing this tribute, John.

  4. John,
    I am really sorry to hear about the loss of your colleague–well, our colleague–but thank you for such a beautiful tribute!

  5. I had the fortune to know Whitney in San Jose. She was a really nice, kind and good person. It was impossible not to love her after know her. And this news has really shocked me, i didn’t know anything about it.
    Thanks for your post john. And thanks Whitney to give us the chance to know you.
    Gob bless you.

  6. Whitney was one of the most consistent voices for the customer that I heard within Adobe… like John said, if you’ve used Adobe products, you’ve likely been affected by her. And as a coworker, if you asked her a question, you got an answer. A good person.

  7. Beautiful. Thanks for writing this tribute to such a wonderful member of our Adobe family. I will miss her and I know so many others who will as well. She was the real deal.

  8. My condolences John. I did not know Whitney McCleary, so your words alone would have had little impact. However, as often happens, the photograph speaks volumes—the epitome of a friendly, helpful, might I even suggest loving, face. Thus a non-rational sense of loss welled-up for a total stranger.
    [Thanks, Paul. You read her face exactly right. Wish I could somehow embed her laugh. It was so infectious, and I hope to always carry it with me. –J.]

  9. Thank you John for such a lovely tribute. Whitney was indeed a “twinkling soul”. Her help and interest were greatly influential in the success I enjoy today. She cut through bureaucracy better than anyone I’ve every met. She always got the job done and always did it with good cheer and by helping someone else along the way. She will be greatly missed.

  10. All the positive comments about her on the professional side are so accurate and appropriate. But her true shining was just as a caring person. As John points out, she often pushed back on me (when I ran CS at Adobe), and defended the customer, the designer, the little guy. Better, she laughed at my jokes — which tells you just what a kind person she was.
    [ 😉 –J.]
    An exceptional employee, but way more importantly, a wonderful woman and a wonderful person.

  11. Couldn’t agree more, John. She was such an incredible spirit, insightful, and not afraid to drive change. She was someone I would often turn to for advice. I will miss her terribly.

  12. Thanks for this, John. I was lucky in many ways to have known Whitney. Whitney was one of a small handful of people who plucked me out of obscurity in the early days of InDesign, and hired me to design some of the files that ended up on the box when InDesign 2.0 was released in 2002. Since then we were friends through the years, although years would pass where our paths never crossed. Again, InDesign and the InDesign User Group organization was our common thread and passion.
    I also remember when Whitney told me years ago that she had been diagnosed with liver disease. At the time I figured she’d beat it, of course, somehow. She gave off such positive energy! Never did I think the disease would win its battle.
    Like Chris Converse said in his post, Whitney was a major part of my career that followed. For that I thank her. She will forever occupy a special place in my heart.

  13. Nicely said John. Things are a little dimmer without her bright wit and dedication to helping others. Grateful to have known her.

  14. Well said, John.
    We will miss Whit’s whit, sparkle, and love of life. May her spirit live on in all of us that were fortunate enough to have known her.

  15. Oh my goodness… I didnt hear till just now. Heart goes out to everyone. I hadnt spoken to her in a bit.. but man.. thats incredibly sad. She will be missed….

  16. Thanks for this post. I got to know Whitney in the CS2 era, when InDesign Server came out, and I was immediately impressed with her amazing mind, her positive and tireless energy, and her true and genuine caring for those around her. She reigned over chaos, soaking up responsibility beyond what mortals are supposed to endure, and somehow making everything happen in time.
    It was amazing how much she could get done, and how positive her impact was – her energy just radiated. I believe she changed many lives, certainly mine included. I don’t think InDesign could have been what it was without her.
    I remember when working on projects for her that I could hardly reach her during the day, as her voice mail would be full. But 9 or 10 PM, she would answer the office phone and apologize that she was so busy, efficiently knocking out whatever had to be done in a few minutes. So brilliant, an incredible writer with a deep knowledge of typography and design, and an ability to navigate bureaucracy without losing vision or the all-important sense of humor; there are just not a lot of people like Whitney out there.
    She is truly missed but she lived a life that stands as an example for us all.

  17. Beautiful post, John. You summed up how we all feel about Whit. I am sure is smiling about this one right now. 😉

  18. I was fortunate to have interacted with her. This news is so difficult to cope with. Thanks for this touching tribute, John.

  19. Whitney demonstrated leadership in action by investing in others to reach their full potential. Her legacy lives on not only in the products and technologies she brought to the world but in the people she nurtured.

  20. John, you and all the comments above capture Whitney so beautifully. She was a good friend, and cared deeply about doing the right thing and making sure Adobe did the right thing. I am honored to have known her for so many years, and will truly miss her for many years to come.

  21. A fitting tribute to a wonderful person. The thing I remember most about Whitney other than her cheerful persona is her gift of time and her focus on users. I remember bumping into her at MAX 2011, she was by the big ‘&’ symbol where people were getting photos taken and the inkjet printers were about to run out of ink again. Rather than close the exhibit she scoured LA to get the right ink for the printers and although she was due to go back 2 days before the end of the show she decided to stay for the whole show and help out, so people got their photos. It was just one more selfless act. She will be sorely missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know her.

  22. Whitney was my boss, my co-worker, and my friend. She was smart, creative, and very human (which can be harder to be in a big company). I miss her a lot. Crying in my office, again…
    [I know, buddy. I hear ya… –J.]

    1. Tough first day back in the old Adobe office for a lot of us, Adam. My first project at Adobe was cooking up an InDesign press tour with Whitney. What a great introduction to the company that was.

  23. Such nice words John, thanks for sharing…and starting such a great thread of comments. It seems that we all have our Whit stories…I guess it should come as no surprise that we can all remember her solving a problem, lifting a spirit, facing some huge force or (so often in my case) knocking us off the tech treadmill long enough to have a real conversation. She was so present, so warm, so kind…and yet so tenacious when it came to righting a wrong. I’m so glad I knew you Whit, you were about as good as they get.

  24. Somehow I never worked with her during my ten years at Adobe, but so many of my colleagues are expressing their grief on Facebook that I’m feeling very sorry to hear about this untimely loss.

  25. I am so sad to hear this news. I loved working with Whitney as an agency partner and enjoyed her so much. Very very sad, and my thoughts and condolences to her family.

  26. Luckily so many others have found words for this sad news. I cannot. I can summon pleasant memories and gratitude for knowing her…so I’ll do that.

  27. Whit was one of those rare people that could take a spark in your heart and blow it into a flame. She put her considerable heart, mind and soul into even the smallest things and she rekindled my faith in doing good work. I just can’t believe she is gone.

  28. Thanks, John. Can’t believe our friend is gone. Everyone has captured the essence of Whit more eloquently than I ever could. But I will never drink another glass of champagne without remembering how much she loved it….or when she took me into a designer clothing store and had me try on all kinds of outfits, like she was dressing a doll…or our time at Creative Suite conferences in Las Vegas where we spent time getting makeovers at cosmetic stores. Memories that bring me lots of laughs and a bit of sadness that I can’t share that laugh with Whit any longer.

  29. Words cannot express how sad I was to hear this news. Whitney was a remarkable woman… smart, passionate, kind and always willing to lend a helping hand. She will truly be missed.

  30. Whitney saved my butt plenty of times. She helped me professionally and personally, taught me the ropes, showed me how to cut through (or avoid entirely) red tape in our sometimes difficult processes. Whitney was a joy to work with and a leader at all times and in every way. She gave me so much positive feedback and energy. Her heart was bigger than the Adobe corporate office building and I will always love and miss her.

  31. I’m in disbelief that a wonderful person such as Whitney is no longer with us. The Adobe hallways and this world will be slightly dimmer without her. I will miss her encouraging spirit amidst all the corporate craziness and that infectious laugh. Whitney will be one of those few special folks that I will remember for a very long time. You will be missed!

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