Short biography of David Gries

Teaching OO using Java
festive occasions
ABC book
CS Faculty over the years
The Triple-I Administration
How Bush Operated



I was born in Flushing, New York, and spent 21 years there before I escaped. I received a B.S. Queens College in 1960 and went to work for the U.S. Naval Weapons laboratory (as a civilian) as a mathematician-programmer. I met my wife-to-be, Elaine, a few months later, and we were married in November 1961.

We went to Illinois for more education. I received a Masters degree in math from Illinois in 1963. My assistantship was to help two Germans, Manfred Paul and Ruediger Wiehle, write a full Algol compiler for the IBM 7090 computer --it was fun, figuring out how to implement recursion efficiently before there were many papers on the topic. This ended up in my wife and I going to Munich for almost three years. I received my doctorate under F.L. Bauer and Joseph Stoer from MIT (the Munich Institute of Technology, Germany, now the Munich Technical University) in June 1966. This was in math, or numerical analysis, since computer science theses were not yet kosher.

I was an assistant professor of Computer Science at Stanford from 1966 to 1969. While at Stanford, our twins Paul and Susan were born. What made it more exciting than usual was that they were born on the birthday of myself and my twin --26 April. So, when my twin is in town, Elaine makes four birthday cakes.

We left Stanford because it had no weather. We moved to Cornell, which has weather, in 1969 and were snowed in for 20 years. I was Department Chair in 1982-87, and I became the William L. Lewis Professor of Engineering in 1992. I had a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984-85.

My wife, Elaine, who hails from the deep south (Mississippi), got tired of it up in Yankeeland and wanted ME to be the foreigner for a while. So in July 1999, after 30 years at Cornell we emigrated from the north and immigrated to the south. But we stayed Greek! We moved from Ithaca to Athens, Georgia. She south was not what she and I thought it would be, and in January 2003 we returned to Cornell, to spend what may be the rest of our days in cold, cloudy, Ithaca!

I am better known for my text writing and my contributions to education than for the wonderfulness of my research. Do what you are good at; bloom where you are planted. I have received a number of awards for contributions to education: the 1994 IEEE Taylor L. Booth Award, the ACM Karl Karlstrom Award in 1994, the ACM SIGCSE award in 1991, and the American Federation of Information Processing Societies' (AFIPS) education award in 1985. I received a Cornell Outstanding Educator Award in 1990 and the Clark Award from Cornell's College of Arts & Sciences in 1986. I was among the first ten faculty members at Cornell (out of over 1500 total faculty) to become a Cornell Weiss Fellow, for contributions to undergraduate education.

I have two honorary doctorates: an honorary Doctor of Science from the Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (April 1999), and an honorar Doctor of Laws from Daniel Webster College, Nashua, New Hampshire (May 1996).

I am proud of all my Ph.D. advisees, but two stand out. Susan Owicki's thesis laid the foundation for proofs of correctness of parallel programs, with the notion of interference-freeness. A paper co-authored by us on the topic won the 1977 ACM Award for best paper in programming languages and systems. And T.V. Raman's thesis won the ACM best-dissertation award for 1993-94. Raman designed and implemented a system for "speaking" any tex/latex document, including technical articles and books. The same document can be printed or spoken. Being able to speak mathematics in an effective manner was an important goal of his work. Reading for the Blind used his system to produce audio cassettes.

I served as Chair of the Computing Research Association (then the Computer Science Board) in the late 1980's when it opened its office in Washington and began seriously to represent computing research interests. I also conducted the Taulbee Surveys in the period 1984-1991 and am proud of obtaining essentially complete responses from PhD-granting computer science departments during that period. No other comparable survey has had such a response rate. One year, it required only 256 telephone calls to get the 150 departments to send in their questionnaires. I received the Computing Research Association's 1991 Service Award for this work on the Surveys and for chairing the Association during its move toward respectability and responsibility.

I was an editor for IPL, starting in about 1974. Wlad Turski and I served as managing editors of IPL from 1988 to 2003. I processed some 1500 submissions, reviewing many myself. As we retired from active duty, IPL named Wlad and me "Honorary Editors-in-Chief".

I was also an editor for Acta Informatica, Formal Aspects of Computing, Structured Programming, Comm. of the ACM, and a few other journals over a 30-year period, I gave it up. I thought it was time to bow out of that task and leave it to the younger folk. I believe in the motto "serve where you can best serve" and felt that in this capacity I was no longer fit.

In 1973, I became Editor of the new book series Springer Verlag Texts and Monographs in Computer Science. With changes over the years, it has become Texts in Computer Science; I have a Co-Editor now, Orit Hazzan.

I retired in 2011 but continue to teach because our courses are so huge. For the past 4-5 years, I have been the lead instructor (teaching with a co-instructor of course CS2110: OO Programming in Java and Data Structures. This semester, spring 2019, there are over 650 students, from freshmen to PhDs. As this teaching as continued, I developed an online book for the course. It has over 50 short videos on various aspects of OO and data structures, allowing us to flip some recitations. Take a look at it here: JavaHyperText. Use whatever you want of it; it is free.

What do I do in my spare time? It used to be sports like golf, softball, volleyball, swimming and table tennis. (Once, in China, I split my pants playing ping pong. An hour later, while giving a lecture, I mentioned that the audience should not laugh when I turned around, and I explained why. The interpreter spoke, and everyone laughed. However, I don't know whether he told the truth or just said, "Gries made a joke, laugh.".) I also used to sing barbershop and Gilbert and Sullivan. My wife and I have been singing in the Voices Multicultural Chorus, which is part of the Ithaca Community Choruses, of which I am a member of the Board of Directors. Spiritual activities keep me busy, and I often spend two weeks in the summer teaching at the Sri Sathya Sai University in India.