Among the Computing Greats- A night at the ACM Awards

ACM Award Banquet

My background and inclination, lead me to want to report on my recent trip to the ACM Awards like I would the Oscar’s… “Dr. Andrew Chien was looking debonair in his classic black Tux with elegant gray and white flecked traditional tie and vest, accompanied by his lovely wife, Ellen, in a gorgeous silver silk jacket and top combo….” Actually, this wasn’t the red carpet event of stars I had feared, but a group of some of the most inspiring and authentic people I’ve had the privilege to meet-our kind of “rock-stars” as the new ad goes. The Association for Computing Machinery definitely attracts the best* Alan Kay and Andrew Chien and this night was full of its most celebrated members. ACM Fellows and Award Winners for the most part, though I’m still not certain where the two young ladies in mini-skirts claiming to be with Intel came from... they certainly weren’t part of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair winners. In this crowd however, the young ladies who raised the most eyebrows were those that picked up the Undergraduate Category of the ACM Student Research Competition--Sarah Loos, Indiana University, Neha Singh, IIT Bombay and Alice Zhu, Harvey Mudd College. On a very male dominated stage it was heartening to see both the youngest and the most prestigious award (the Intel/Google sponsored Turing Award ) go to the women.

Intel sponsored a lovely reception before the banquet, where I was able to chat with notables such as former Intel-ite and current Executive Directive of MediaX at Stanford University, Chuck House and Jason (Jingsheng) Cong, former Chancellor’s Professor and Chair of the CS Department of UCLA. I shamelessly promoted the Intel Academic Community and encouraged them to take a look at our curriculum offerings. Actually, as Dr. Cong admitted to being scheduled to teach a course in parallelism in the Spring, I actually had the opportunity to do some soft recruiting, “Ooooh, Jason, (bat, bat, bat) you know we have course modules you can grab off the website if you’re looking for materials…” Chuck House and Esther BaldwinEsther Baldwin, who graciously arranged my invitation, was an amazing “connector” introducing me to Thomas Kwan, Director of Research Operations for Yahoo!, John Gustafson, Director of Intel Labs SC and Anthony Joseph, Director of Intel Labs Berkeley. Yes, I’m name dropping but mostly because, I know that these are all folks that are also involved with Intel projects and I still need to figure out how to bill them as part of the work we’re doing to bring parallelism into classrooms. Now if I could just change my job to “interviewer of interesting people related to parallel computing and Academia,” I’d be set for months.

One of the things I did notice was how difficult it was to really understand the connections between Academia and Industry. There were an impressive number of award winners, fellows and committee members who either were or had been associated with Intel. However, because of the reluctance with which many researchers admit their ties to industry, it was hard to figure out how to identify Intel’s leaders in this space. A significant part of my role of marketing for the Academic Community is to help showcase Intel’s support and bring to light our leadership in academia. Step 1-find out who our leaders are. Step 2 -- invite them to share their accomplishments. I’d like to start with Intel fellow and winner of the ACM-IEEE CS Eckert-Mauchly Award, Joel Emer and our very own Geoffrey Lowney (2008 ACM Fellow and member of the Software and Solutions Group) and see what they have to say on the subject.Joel Emer and Goeff Lowney

My foray into the computer limelight was humbling; and while most of the conversation was above my head, I very much appreciated the chance to rub elbows with some of the luminaries in the field. From my dinner companions I learned that in this arena, contributions are life-long and it’s never too late to impact the community. 1973 Turing Award winner Charlie Bachman is still active in consulting. He and his wife had flown in from Boston to attend the banquet and celebrate their 60th anniversary among friends and family. Alan Kay, the 2003 Turing Award winner was ribbed upon taking the stage as an ACM Fellow this year; something to the tune of, “it took you long enough!”

I capped off the evening by visiting with some of the ACM executives and unfortunately may have insulted ACM President, Professor Dame Wendy Hall. While congratulating her on a masterful job leading the evening’s ceremonies I realized that I had completely forgotten her name and titles (which I had so dutifully read in the program earlier that evening). You can’t win them all, but I hope that my sincere efforts to showcase the ACM as synonymous with computing excellence, and the frank acknowledgement of my ignorance of all things computational, will win her forgiveness.

*see my video with Andrew Chien on ACM ideals and membership.

Me and Geoff Lowney
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