Alumni and External Relations

In the fall of 2003, Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman ’77 was
inaugurated as the eleventh president of Cornell University. More than
5,000 people filled Barton Hall, which had been brilliantly transformed
into a stately venue, complete with massive red columns, Cornell banners, and acres of red carpet to honor the faculty, visiting dignitaries, and many special guests from around the world. Lehman, a self-confessed technophile, has enthusiastically embraced the importance of computing and information science to Cornell’s future. Following his inauguration, he visited a broad range of high-tech companies, meeting alumni and asking for feedback on host of issues important to Cornell.

At Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, more than forty enthusiastic alumni sat down for lunch with the new president and talked with him about Cornell’s overall mission and his own interests. The alums at Microsoft asked President Lehman to outline his main challenges as a new president, to share his understanding of current endowment levels for student financial aid, to talk about his personal passions, and to comment on the role corporations can play in supporting academia and research. Lehman talked about his interest in Cornell’s unique history in the world and its reputation for providing a more adventurous, path-breaking form of leadership.

The CS ACM Programming Contest Team jumps for joy before heading off to the
World Championship in Prague. The team was sponsored by Green Hills Software.
CIS Dean Robert L. Constable shares a light moment on stage with Bill Gates

Looking forward, he wanted to know what ideals alums thought Cornell should aspire to and vowed to bring high-profile speakers to campus to further engage students and faculty members in this important discussion. Less than three months later, Microsoft’s own Bill Gates answered the call and arrived at Cornell to give a talk. On the day of Lehman’s inauguration in Ithaca, a special lecture was given by Narayana Murthy, founder and CEO of Infosys, a worldwide leader in software development. Murthy, a newly appointed trustee of the university, gave an inspired speech, calling on Cornellians to apply their talents to solving global problems. He spoke of the power of what he called “old-fashioned leadership,” describing this as direction based on a vision of higher principles. He shared his belief that average people can be motivated to become an extraordinary force for positive change and urged Cornellians to carry their values to every corner of the world. He also encouraged fellow corporate leaders to earn the trust of society, to relate more effectively to the universal needs of people, and to strive to lead simple lives.

Speaking of socially responsible leaders, we are pleased to announce that former ACSU president Jordan Erenrich ’02, M.Eng. ’03, has agreed to serve as the chair of the Computer Science Alumni Association. Jordan plans to create an alumni listserv and is thinking about other ways to enable computing and information science graduates of Cornell to network with each other. If you have an interest in reaching out to other alums, contact Jordan at The alumni breakfast is a great place to get reacquainted and discover opportunities for outreach.

On another important front, the newly designated “Game Design Initiative at Cornell University” (GDIAC) is thriving under the leadership of CS alums Mohan Rajagopalan M.S. ’02 and Rama Hoetzlein ’01, and Professor David I. Schwartz. GDIAC provides a great example of how alumni can stay connected; without Rama and Mohan, GDIAC would not exist as it does today. GDIAC is introducing its first official course in computergame design, CIS 300 Introduction to Computer Game Design, which will be showcased at the end of each semester in a public open house. You can download student games and projects, learn about our courses, and get the latest news about game R&D at

In October of 2003, CS faculty hosted the first talk of a newly developed Distinguished Career Lecture Series. The inaugural talk, “Magnificent Pathways”, was given by Barbara Liskov, Ph.D., a senior faculty member in computer science at M.I.T. Dr. Liskov shared the details of her distinguished career with an audience of fifty enthralled students, faculty members, and alums. One of the highlights of her talk was hearing that Princeton had refused to consider her for a faculty position because she was a woman—thankfully times have changed!

In November, a panel of women leaders addressed a group of about thirty-five students, faculty members, and alums at an event titled“Opportunities in Computer Science”. Ph.D. student Alexa Sharp was engaging as the panel moderator, encouraging attendees to think of effective ways to communicate with students about computing related studies and professions. Cornell alumna Aleta Ricciardi ’84, M.S. ’89, Ph.D. ’93 and CS major Radha Narayan ’05 were two of four panelists discussing the various opportunities available in research, graduate study, and careers for women in computing-related fields, and effective programs for mentorship and outreach. Also on the panel were CS Professor Kavita Bala and Veronica Vazquez ’96, the dean of students of the Cascadilla School in Ithaca. Other alums attending this event were CS Professor Daisy Fan, Ph.D. ’03, Dan Jenkins ’82, and Ph.D. candidate Vicky Weissman ’96, M.Eng. ’99.

Away from campus, Cornell students had another successful year competing in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Programming Championships, thanks to Nikola Valerjev ’96, who once again secured generous sponsorship from Green Hills Software, Inc. Worldwide, 3,150 teams competed, with only seventy-three advancing to the finals. The Cornell team won first place in the northeast regional competition and moved on to Prague, Czech Republic to compete in world finals, where they were awarded an honorable mention. Green Hills has sponsored Cornell teams for several years.

This year’s Degenfelder Family Scholarship was awarded to Paul Shafer ’05. This $5,000 award recognizes students who are working at the interface between computer science and biology. Joseph R. Degenfelder ’60 and his wife Dr. Pauline Degenfelder ’61 worked with CS Professor Ron Elber to establish an endowment for this scholarship.

The Jonathan E. Marx Senior Prizes were presented to Omar Ahmed Nayeem and Ramona Pousti as part of the CS graduation ceremony in the Statler Auditorium on May 30, 2004. Jonathan E. Marx ’85 was a CS major who died in a skiing accident shortly after his graduation in 1985. The Marx family established the Marx Senior Prizes to recognize students who have most demonstrated a positive spirit among their classmates, held significant leadership roles, and have been of service in the community. The Marx family also established a teaching award in the name of Jonathan’s father, the late Alan S. Marx, J.D. ’61. The Alan Marx Memorial Prize for Excellence Supporting Undergraduate Education was awarded to Aaron Justin Fink. The Computer Science Prize for Academic Excellence was awarded to Matthew Wachs and Asher Walkover.

For more information about alumni or external relations in CIS or CS, please contact Dan Jenkins at