Professor Emeritus Bill Pugh Pledges $500k to Transform Computer Science Education

Help Fund CS Education For Tomorrow

Submitted by Heather Dewar, CMNS

In the symbolic launch of a five-year initiative to transform undergraduate computer science education at the University of Maryland College Park, Professor Emeritus Bill Pugh. has pledged to make a $500,000 donation, seed money for a $1 million fund to help use technology to innovate in the classroom.

Beginning in the fall 2013, UMD’s Computer Science Department will pilot a radical transformation in educational practices that emphasizes the mastery of core skills at the students’ own pace. At the heart of this strategy is the “flipped classroom model” in which professors videotape lectures for online streaming, and devote class time to closer collaboration with students in hands-on activities, brainstorming, Q and A sessions, and group and individual projects tailored to a variety of learning styles.

To support improved CS education and other infrastructure changes needed to implement this new approach, Prof. Pugh has pledged $100,000 per year for up to five years, contingent on a one-to-one annual match by other donors. Alumnus Phillip H. Horvitz, Computer Science ’75, an elected trustee of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, has stepped forward to provide the first $100,000 matching grant.

The gift, announced on October 1, 2013, is a reflection of Prof. Pugh’s and Trustee Horvitz’ shared commitment to innovative undergraduate teaching.

“This is a pivotal time for education in general, and computer science education in particular,” Prof. Pugh said. “Innovations in pedagogy, technology, and data mining have opened up lots of exciting possibilities. I'm thrilled to be able to supply some of the impetus and funding to allow the University of Maryland Computer Science department to be part of this excitement.”

Prof. Samir Khuller, chairman of the Computer Science Department, and Dean Jayanth Banavar of the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences thanked both donors for their many years of dedication, including this recent gift.

Bill Pugh served as a faculty member at UMD for 23 years before retiring in 2012 to become a software developer and entrepreneur. A Packard Fellow and former consultant to Google, he is the inventor of Skip Lists, a randomized data structure widely taught in undergraduate courses, and FindBugs, a code analysis tool that detects a wide range of problems in Java byte code.

“Bill Pugh’s academic career was noted for innovative teaching as well as innovative research,” said Prof. Khuller. “As a teacher, Bill focused on recognizing and building on students’ individual strengths and learning styles to elicit their best work. Thanks to this generous gift, his ideas will continue to benefit our undergraduates for years to come.”

Phil Horvitz, Chief Technology Officer at URS Apptis, Inc., is a pioneer in computing innovation and a longtime supporter of computer education at UMD. Mr. Horvitz has established the Phillip H. and Catherine C. Horvitz Professorship in the Computer Science Department, a research fellowship fund, and a graduate assistantship fund. The large lecture hall in the Computer Science Instructional Center is named in his honor.

“The College is profoundly grateful to Phil Horvitz for his long-standing commitment to computer education on campus, as well as his support of our overall mission,” said Dean Banavar. “Phil’s generosity, stretching back more than a decade, and now helping to propel us into the future, continues to touch many lives.”

To learn more or to serve as a matching donor for this important grant, please contact Andrea Morris in the CMNS Development Office, aemorris [at] umd [dot] edu.

Help Fund CS Education For Tomorrow

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