2015 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.


Rick Cattell
BS CS ’74
Founder, Cattell.Net Software Consulting

An independent consultant in database systems for the last eight years, Rick Cattell is best known for his contributions in database and server software, including database scalability, enterprise Java, object/relational mapping, object-oriented databases, and database interfaces.

Cattell worked at Sun Microsystems for more than 20 years as a distinguished engineer and engineering manager, where he initiated the projects that became J2EE, Java DB, Java Blend, and the Simplify database GUI. He was the co-creator of JDBC and other Java APIs, and he helped define the Java Community Process.  He also co-founded the SQL Access Group (a predecessor of ODBC) and the Object Data Management Group (ODMG). He wrote the world’s first book on object/relational and object-oriented database systems. 

Prior to that, Cattell had worked at the Xerox PARC Computer Science Lab, where he contributed to the Cedar programming environment and the Cypress database system. He used Cypress to develop a variety of early graphical user interfaces for email, documents, calendars, personal databases, and data visualization.

Cattell is an ACM Fellow, holds seven U.S. patents, and has written five books. He earned his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked on an early hypertext system and applied AI to compiler construction. He received the 1978 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award for his research on formalization and automatic derivation of code generators.

Last updated 2015


Jackson Hu
MS CS ’76, PhD ’78
Partner, WI Harper Group

Jackson Hu, a semiconductor industry veteran with nearly 40 years of experience in the fabless IC design and foundry sectors, is now a Venture Partner for WI Harper, a VC firm in San Francisco. Hu also currently serves on the Board of Directors for Atoptech and the Advisory Boards of Bitfury and Insilixa, all startup companies.

Hu has held a number of technical and executive positions throughout his career. At S3, Hu and his team of five engineers developed the industry’s first single-chip GUI accelerator in 1991, the S3 86C911, enabling Microsoft Windows to run more smoothly and quickly. The company became the leading graphics chip provider. By 1995, nearly every major PC graphics had followed S3’s lead and added 2D GUI acceleration support.

As president and CEO at SiRF, Hu led the company’s development of a cost-effective and accurate chipset that brought GPS into smartphones.

Hu was chairman and CEO at UMC, the world’s second largest semiconductor foundry. During his five-year tenure, he launched a program that allowed 22 universities to run research projects on Silicon Shuttle, which enabled researchers to verify their advanced designs and prototypes in UMC silicon.

He also leveraged his design expertise to assist UMC’s development of comprehensive solutions enabling the production of leading-edge SOCs in a cost-effective foundry environment.

More recently, Hu was chairman and CEO of NeoEnergy Microelectronics, a fabless analog IC design company for improving power efficiency.

Hu credits his career advancement and accomplishments to the disciplined training he received from his thesis advisor, U of I Professor Saburo Muroga, and to the strong, balanced education provided by CS @ ILLINOIS.

Last updated 2015


Pete Koomen
MS CS ’06
Co-founder and CTO, Optimizely

Pete Koomen is the co-founder and CTO of Optimizely, the world’s leading experience optimization platform providing A/B testing, targeting, and optimization for websites and mobile apps. Optimizely’s platform is easy to use, enabling companies to design and run experiments on their website, leading to better data-inspired marketing decisions. Disney, Crate & Barrel, and Starbucks are among the 8,000 companies using Optimizely’s product.

In 2014, Optimizely raised $57 million in venture capital funding. More recently, the company expanded its operations into Japan.

Before co-founding Optimizely with CEO Dan Siroker in October 2010, Koomen spent three years as a product manager at Google, where he helped launch and grow Google App Engine. In 2009, he and Siroker started CarrotSticks, an online educational software company that helped young kids learn math.

Koomen and Siroker co-wrote the book, A/B Testing: The Most Powerful Way to Turn Clicks Into Customers, which focuses on how companies can influence people’s behavior when they visit their website.

Koomen earned his bachelor’s degree in math and CS from Case Western University in Cleveland in 2004.

Last updated 2015


Lynn Reedy
BS Math & CS ’77
former senior vice president & CTO, eBay

A successful technology executive, Lynn Reedy has worked in software and software development her entire career. As senior vice president and CTO at eBay from 1999 to 2006, she led the complete redesign of the company’s website—both hardware and software—without disrupting the auction site’s operations. She was specifically responsible for initiatives that pertained to the company’s work in software development, product specification, user interface design, usability testing, architecture, and release management.

Prior to working at eBay, Reedy was chief information officer for seven years at Miller Freeman, a trade show producer and publisher of technical and industry-specific magazines. While there, she implemented strategic business systems and developed the company’s Internet strategy for more than 200 websites.

Earlier in her career, Reedy worked for Andersen Consulting and Amdahl Corporation in a variety of management roles. In addition to her CS degree, Reedy earned an MBA from Santa Clara University in 1991.

Last updated 2015


Russ Simmons
BS CS ’98
Founder, Learnirvana

Like several other CS alumni, Russel Simmons is a member of the PayPal mafia, a moniker made famous by a Fortune magazine article that profiled the serial entrepreneurs who left the payment service to found other powerhouse Silicon Valley companies.

In late 1998, Simmons left graduate school at Illinois to join PayPal, a company co-founded by fellow Illinois alumnus Max Levchin (BS CS ‘97). As the software architect at PayPal, Simmons helped design the web-based payment system from scratch.

In 2004, Simmons co-founded Yelp with ECE ILLINOIS graduate and fellow PayPal employee Jeremy Stoppelman (BS ECE ’99). Simmons served as CTO at Yelp, the online review site of local businesses, until 2010.

Since leaving Yelp, Simmons has focused on exploring new approaches to education, and is currently working on a video-based foreign language learning product called Delvin Language.

Last updated 2015