2012 Distinguished Service Award

The CS @ Illinois Distinguished Service Award honors computer science alumni or faculty who have demonstrated an outstanding level of commitment to the department and its students, faculty, and alumni through their support and service. The award is presented at the CS @ Illinois Awards Banquet each fall.

Nominations for the Distinguished Service Award are solicited annually from alumni, faculty, and advisory board members. Nominate a fellow alumnus today at my.cs.illinois.edu/submit.


Geneva Belford
Emeritus Professor, CS @ Illinois

CS Emeritus Professor Geneva Belford (PhD Math '60) has positively influenced students at the University of Illinois for more than 48 years, first as a professor of Mathematics, next as a professor of Computer Science, and then as the CS Department’s Graduate Program Coordinator, even after her official retirement in 2000. 

With research interests in databases and distributed systems, Belford joined the CS faculty in 1977, and she quickly became one of the most popular faculty advisors. In addition to supervising the research of CS graduate students, she enthusiastically advised the work of students with little or no computer science background, who qualified for an MCS degree offered by the department at the time. In all, she supervised more than 40 PhD graduates and more than 100 CS master’s degree graduates, many of whom were international students. Her students have fondly described her as encouraging, accessible, and able to dispense constructive advice.

Belford’s positive impact on students extended beyond the CS department to the entire campus. In the early 1980s, she served as an associate dean in the Graduate College. Later, she devoted much time to improving the university as a member of the faculty senate. She also shared her expertise as a member of campus committees that addressed challenges such as the implementation of on-line registration, educational technologies, and administrative data processing.

An outstanding educational leader, teacher, and mentor, Belford has received several campus honors, including the 1986 College of Engineering Halliburton Educational Leadership Award, the 1991 Dad’s Association Outstanding Faculty Award, the 2005 Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award, and the 2007 Mom’s Association Medallion of Honor.

Last updated: 2012.


Ari Gesher
Senior Software Engineer, Palantir Technologies

Ari Gesher is a senior software engineer and technology blogger at Palantir Technologies, which builds software platforms that allow organizations to make sense of massive amounts of disparate data. These platforms help non-technical users see critical connections, and ultimately, the answers to complex problems such as combating terrorism, prosecuting crimes, fighting fraud, and eliminating waste.

Gesher, who joined the Silicon Valley startup in 2006, has split his time between working as a backend engineer on Palantir's analysis platform; thinking and writing about Palantir's vision for human-driven information data systems; and moonlighting on Palantir's Philanthropic engineering team. In all, he has 15 years of experience in the software industry, including a stint as lead website and infrastructure maintainer for the SourceForge.net open source software archive.

As a student at Illinois, Gesher (known then as Ari Gordon-Schlosberg) served as the chair of ACM, and he was the student manager for the CS team that competed in the ACM’s International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) in China.

Once in industry, Gesher continued to foster ties with CS students by meeting with ACM leaders several times each year on campus, by speaking at ACM’s Reflections | Projections Conference, and by sharing his work experiences through the Engineer in Residence program. He has also helped the CS department find funding for the ACM Reflections | Projections job fair, CS 225 competitions, and the ICPC world finals. More recently, he was the keynote speaker at an Illinois alumni-sponsored entrepreneur speed pitch event on the West Coast.

Last updated: 2012.