Banquet Speech (Part 2, the letter P)

40th Anniversary Symposium

Introduction Note: Some of the pics
Our beginnings can be clicked to obtain
An ABC book larger versions.
The letter P: PhDs HERE WE ARE
The letter Y: Young faculty  
Principles for success  
The letter I: Intelligence (artificial)  
In conclusion  


THE LETTER P, FOR PhD —pronounced fould as in would.

I will start you off with the letter P, which stands for “PhD”. So here’s the poem for letter P.

P is for PhD —and that’s pronounced “fould”,              
So the meter and rhyme of this poem is good.
360 grads who wear our Phd hood
Are now in CS for their livelihood.
There’s a cabbie or two (I think) in the brood,
But most lead CS, as we knew they would



I started off with FOULD (rhymes with WOULD) because it is so nice to have so many of our fould alumni here with us. There are over 90 of you here —that's 25% of our PhDs! What an honor it is to have so many of you here. I guess it means that we did something right. Our first PhD is here, Joel Sturman. A renegade from Electrical Engineering, got his PhD in 1966, one year after the department started. Joel, take a bow.

We started in 1965 with only a PhD program in order to educate PhDs to populate this new field. No undergrad degree –that came in 1980—, only a PhD. And we gave them not only a technical education but a firm foundation in ethics and morals, so they would be fine, law-abiding citizens!

[To the right, PhDs Richard Palmer and Jim Hook are being led off by the police outside of Day Hall at some sort of a demonstration.]

It has been said that a PhD thesis is a tome ghostwritten by an advisor under adverse circumstances. There is a bit of truth in everything, but at Cornell, this truth is small. We vie with other topnotch CS departments for the best grad students, and we get more than our share. We give them —you— a great education, and you end up providing excitement and out-of-the-box thinking. You make excellent, inexpensive researchers. And we need you!

And you then go on to your life after the PhD and are eminently successful.

Many of our foulds are indeed leading the way in academia and industry. There are deans, a vice provost, winners of research honors, several department chairs, leading figures in industry, and just plain good people who are teaching, doing research, or leading in industry and government. Some of you have moved away from computer science, and that’s alright too. The point is that you have made US successful and have been successful yourselves.

[From the 1970's:
Zvi Galil, Ed Clarke, Forbes Lewis, Richard Tenney
Doug Howe, Ed Reingold, Steve Weiss, Upson Hall]

I’ll give you an idea of what I mean by talking about five of my own PhDs advisees who are here in this audience. Narain Gehani and Susan Owicki from the 1970s, Jan Prins and Jennifer Widom from the 1980s, and TV Raman (with guide dog Aster) from the 1990s.

First, there is Susan Owicki. I asked her to look into a logic for proving correctness of parallel program after trying to use Tony Hoare’s first ideas on the subject. Within a few months, she had invented the notion of interference freedom, the foundational notion used in proving program correct. I also admire Susan for following her heart. After many years in CS, she started another career: She is a marriage-and-family therapist of no small repute, working privately and for Stanford University.

There is a story about her. It took place at a Christmas Party in the Upson Lounge about 1975, when we were small enough to fit in that lounge. We did all the cooking, too; none of this catering business. Susan's name tag said “MS. Susan Owicki”. There was some talk about that, with someone saying it stood for “Masters”, since she had a masters degree. Someone said loudly, “MS stands for Mistress.” This, of course, caused quite a stir —people weren’t so loose and free 30 years ago. People thought it was a real insult. John Williams said something quietly to Dick Conway. Dick Conway replied just as quietly, "I bet you don't have the nerve to say that out loud." John, not a shy person, stood up and spoke in his loudest bass voice,

Better the Mistress of Science
than the Hoare of Cornell!

There was a hush in Upson Hall.

But back to my PhDs! Narain Gehani did a thesis on data types in high-level languages back in 1975, answering some questions that I was pondering at the time. He ends up being a Vice President at Bell Labs, with 20 patents and an excellent book about Bell Labs. He also cofounded the website, which was sold to SwitchBoard in 1998. He now is Chair of Computer and Information Sciences at NJIT.

Jan Prins did his thesis on partial implementations in program derivation. He is a successful full professor at the University of North Carolina and now Chair of the CS Department, doing not only parallelism stuff but bioinformatics.

Jennifer Widom, who you heard this afternoon, did a fine thesis on trace-based proof systems. She goes out to IBM and then Stanford, gets involved in databases out there, and does such superb work that she is elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Her induction is next week.

For his thesis, TV Raman wanted to develop a program that could speak latex. As you may know, TV Raman can’t see. However, that doesn’t stop him from being the most optimistic, happy, person I know, and it also didn’t stop him from writing a thesis that won the ACM Dissertation Award. He is a force in the XML community, and two years ago he wrote a book titled "XForms: XML Powered Web Forms". He just left IBM Almaden to work for Google.

The point is that you, the best PhDs students in the country, have helped make our department what it is.

[Top row: Jim Kadin, Ulfar Erlingsson, Carl Eichenlaub, Bob Harper, Stuart Allen,

To the right: Tom Reps & Susan Horwitz.

Bottom row: Alex Aiken, Luk Longpre, Dean Jacobs, Anne Neirynck, and Bowen Alpern.


Introduction Note: Some of the pics
Our beginnings can be clicked to obtain
An ABC book larger versions.
The letter P: PhDs  
The letter Y: Young faculty NEXT
Principles for success  
The letter I: Intelligence (artificial)  
In conclusion