2013 Distinguished Achievement Award

The CS @ Illinois Distinguished Achievement Award honors computer science graduates who have made professional and technical contributions that bring distinction to themselves, the department, and the University. The award is presented at the CS @ Illinois Awards Banquet each fall.

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


Chris Lattner
MS CS ’02, PhD ’05
Director and Architect of the Developer Tools Department, Apple

Chris LattnerChris Lattner received his master’s degree and PhD in computer science from the University of Illinois in 2002 and 2005, respectively. Since leaving Illinois, Lattner has been working at Apple, Inc., where he is currently the Director and Architect of the Developer Tools Department, a position he has held since January 2013.

At Apple, Lattner is in charge of driving innovation in the programming tools space, as well as managing Apple’s developer tools products for both OS X and iOS. Developer tools serve a key function that enables all software that Apple ships, as well as powering the iOS and OS X app stores.

Lattner is the founder and chief architect of the open source LLVM Compiler Infrastructure project. The LLVM project is an umbrella project which has grown to include a broad range of compiler, debugger, and runtime library technology. First released as an open source project in October 2003, LLVM is now the primary compiler used in many large and small technology companies. It is now found in products such as iOS and Android mobile devices and Cray supercomputers. In July 2013, Wired magazine featured a lengthy online article that discussed the importance and impact of LLVM on the computing industry.

Lattner’s skills as a programmer have been recognized as the reason why LLVM has the elegant and clean architecture that it is well-known for.

As part of the LLVM project team, Lattner received the ACM SIGPLAN Programming Languages Software Award in 2010 and the ACM Software System Award in 2013.

Last updated: 2013.


Sandra Rankin
BS CS ‘74
Vice President, IBM (retired)

Sandra RankinSandra Rankin received her bachelor’s in computer science from the University of Illinois in 1974. She went on to earn a master’s in computer science from Washington University in 1978. She is a retired IBM executive with 33 years experience working in the field of information technology.

Rankin began her professional career as a programmer and software designer for IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she led projects focused on improving the performance and capacity of IBM’s mainframe operating system software. In 1983 she went into a management role and was responsible for designing new software and hardware features in IBM’s mainframe systems.

She transferred to Austin, Texas, in 1994 to work on IBM’s personal computer and small server operating system. In 1999 she was promoted to director and returned to New York, where she led a project to develop the latest Internet technologies for IBM. She also led a small consulting business to test out these new technologies with customers and prove their readiness for commercial business. She worked with many of the vendors in the computer industry to set standards for Internet technologies such as Java, XML, and service-oriented architecture. In 2002, she led the worldwide customer support team for IBM software and was responsible for maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.
Rankin was promoted to vice president in 2006 and managed the mainframe software and firmware development teams. She led a team of 3,000 people in labs all over the world with a budget of $250 million.

Rankin retired in 2007 and lives in Danbury, Connecticut, with her husband John. Today she is an active volunteer with United Way of Western Connecticut and the founder, board chair, and acting executive director of Technology Solutions for Non-Profits (TS4NP). TS4NP delivers low-cost private cloud services to small local nonprofit agencies, and delivers training on how to implement best practices using technology as a tool for efficiency and improved effectiveness.

Last updated: 2013.