Computer Science Department Hosts 40th Anniversary Celebration

Recognizing Department Achievements, New Advances, and Distinguished Alumni

The Department of Computer Science, founded in 1973, celebrated its 40th anniversary on Oct. 18, 2013.  Alumni, former and current faculty and staff members as well as corporate representatives from around the United States gathered in College Park to celebrate the achievements of the department and to reunite with one another.  In addition to setting up a website to document the evolution of Computer Science at the University, the department hosted an afternoon event in the Computer Science Instructional Center.  That afternoon, nearly 200 guests gathered to learn the history of the department, hear from distinguished alumni, and gain insight about future directions for teaching and research.   Later that evening, over 300 guests attended the second part of the celebration at a reception held at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center.  This gathering featured distinguished speakers from the university including Dr. Wallace Loh, the President of the University of Maryland, Dr. Jayanth Banavar, Dean of the College of Computer, Math and Natural Sciences,  Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, Senior Vice President and Provost, and William 'Brit' Kerwin, the University of Maryland System Chancellor.  

The afternoon event commenced with the first chairperson of Computer Science, Emeritus Professor Jack Minker, who spoke about the history of the department along with Emeritus Professor Marv Zelkowitz.  Minker and Zelkowitz have both written extensively on the founding and early history of the department and so were able to give a detailed narrative about its birth and evolution--from a small collective of professors interested in the impact of computing on their work in other fields including mathematics and physics--to one of the most well respected departments of computer science in the country.

Computer Science Department Chair Samir Khuller then enumerated several of department’s many achievements including its current ranking (14th, according to US News), yearly amount of funding (20 million) and the fact that 20 of the department's 50 full time professorial faculty have received NSF Career Awards.  Khuller also proudly announced that the Department has granted over 600 PhDs and that graduates of the program have gone on to become the presidents of universities, chairs of Computer Science Departments, founders of companies and directors of scientific labs.

The afternoon program also informed the audience about new initiatives in the department.  Jan Plane spoke about activities to increase the numbers of women in computing, including her development of a summer program for middle school girls in association with the launching of a new initiative to support women in computing.  Adam Porter introduced a new program aimed at revolutionizing CS education for undergraduate students, and Amitabh Varshney spoke about emergent and cutting edge research that CS professors are engaged with in conjunction with UMIACS.

The afternoon program concluded with the Department's official recognition of distinguished alumni for 2013 including: Martin Farach-Colton (Ph.D. 2001, Professor at Rutgers University and Founder of Tokutek), Glenn Ricart (Ph.D. 1980, Inductee to the Internet Hall of Fame and Founder of US Ignite), Pooja Sankar (M.S. 2004, Founder & CEO of Piazza, Inc.), and Paul Capriolo and Patrick Jenkins (B.S. 2006, Founders of Social Growth Technologies and Now or Never).  Martin Farach-Colton and Patrick Jenkins also gave short, entertaining talks about their experiences at the University of Maryland and how those experiences continue to impact them today. 

At the evening reception, attendees shared their memories and excitement about the Computer Science Department over drinks, hors d’oeuvres and dinner.  Ashok Agrawala served as the master of ceremonies and graciously introduced speakers from campus including University President Wallace Loh, University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan and Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. Each official expressed his or her congratulations and marveled at the milestones that the Computer Science Department has achieved over the last 40 years.  Former chairperson of the Computer Science Department Satish Trapathi, who is now president of the University of Buffalo, talked about how he has watched the department grow from the time he led the department.  CMNS Dean Jayanth Banavar offered his enthusiastic congratulations to the Department, celebrated its past and present, and expressed his continued support of mission of the Computer Science Department.

 All attendees, university members, and students expressed confidence that the future holds many exciting developments for the Computer Science Department for not only the next 40 years, but well into the future.


Facts of interest about the Computer Science Department:

  • The Department's first large machine (VAX 11/780) was purchased with an $150K NSF equipment grant in 1979 (PI: Jack Minker).
  •  A 1983 National Academy of Sciences report ranked the department in the top 15 nationally (a major success for a department that had only been in existence for 10 years).
  • The department has had 9 department chairs (including the current chair) in the last 40 years.
  • Over 200 startups have been founded by CS/UMIACS program graduates.

To learn more about and support the department, UMIACS, the new initiative for women in computing, and CS Education for Tomorrow please read the following:


The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.