2013 Distinguished Service Award
The Illinois Computer Science Distinguished Service Award honors alumni or faculty members who have demonstrated an outstanding level of commitment to the department and its students, faculty, and alumni through their support and service.
Among the 2013 recipients were former Illinois Computer Science associate department heads and academic directors.
- Channing Brown
- H. George Friedman
- Mehdi Harandi
- Sam Kamin
- William Kubitz
- Steven LaValle
- Dennis Mickunas
- Jed Taylor
Channing Brown received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Illinois in 1980. He went on to earn a master’s in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982. Upon graduation, Brown moved to New Jersey, where he worked for Telcordia Technologies (formerly known as Bellcore, now a part of Ericsson) as a senior software engineer.
After living and working in New Jersey for 23 years, Brown relocated to Champaign in February 2006. He developed sports and recreation software at Greencourt Software, work he has enjoyed off and on since 1996. For a short time (November 2007 through September 2008) he worked part-time in software development (telecommuting) for Telcordia Technologies. In January 2009, Brown began work part time for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, primarily writing software to support a research project. He retired in March 2013.
Brown has been a loyal alumnus for many years. He was first active in the New York chapter of the Illinois Alumni Association. Since returning to Illinois, he has been an exhibit judge at the Engineering Open House since 2008; he mentors students in the Illinois Promise scholarship program; and he serves as a conversation partner for students in the Intensive English Institute. He endowed the Channing Brown Scholarship in the CS Department to support undergraduates. He also supports the work of the Women in Computer Science student organization.
You can find “101 Favorite Things about the University of Illinois,” Brown’s tribute to his alma mater, on his webpage at www.july4.net/Illinois.
Last updated: 2013.
George Friedman, professor emeritus of computer science, took an unusual route to the department almost 50 years ago. Friedman earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Loyola University in New Orleans 1959, and then worked on a doctorate in chemistry from Florida State University (which he eventually earned in 1966).
Friedman delayed his education to enter the Army in 1962. After the required two-year stint, he turned down requests to make the Army his career and decided to apply for a position as a computer programmer. He chose to come to the University of Illinois as a professor in their new computer science program. Because there were no computer science degrees in the mid-sixties, faculty came from other areas, such as math, electrical engineering, physics, and chemistry. He was a member of the faculty for 34 years, from 1965 to 1998.
Teaching and mentoring soon became his passions. Often, if he wasn’t in the classroom, he could be found in his office, talking with a student.
Friedman served as the director of undergraduate programs from 1985 through 1998. He helped the department through the growth of personal computers and a large increase in student populations.
Friedman also helped develop the university’s first online registration, known as UI Direct. Because of Friedman’s involvement, computer science was one of the “pilot” departments to train on the new system.
Friedman was a member of the Urbana-Champaign Senate from 1977 through 2000. He recognized the importance of shared governance, and the department and the College of Engineering were well-represented by his tireless service. He chaired the Senate Council for three years during the 1980s and served on the University Senates Conference for several years. He continues to serve as the Senate Parliamentarian and on the Senate’s Committee on University Statutes and Senate Procedures. He also served on the College of Engineering’s Executive Committee for several years, including a term as its vice chair.
Last updated: 2013.
Mehdi T. Harandi obtained his MS and PhD degrees from the University of Manchester, England, in 1976 and 1979, respectively. In 1979 he joined the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois. He retired from the department in fall 2011.
At Illinois, Harandi established and directed the Knowledge-Based Programming Assistant project, a large-scale research project for studying and developing knowledge-based software development tools. He also co-directed the Advanced Collaborative Systems Laboratory for research and development of collaborative, intelligent systems. He was the co-principal investigator of the Illinois Software Engineering Program (ISEP). He has done extensive research in distributed information systems, expert systems, knowledge representation and acquisition, software reuse, specification and design, reverse engineering, and intelligent programming tools. His research has resulted in three best paper awards.
He is the designer of GPSI, a domain-independent expert system environment that was used for many years in a number of different domains in industry and academia. His research also led to the design and development of several intelligent tools for software development, including IDeA (design), SPECIFIER (specification), PAT (program understanding), and APU (program synthesis).
Harandi served as the director of the graduate program from 1999 to 2005. He then became an associate head of the department, a position he held until his retirement.
Harandi served as the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Expert Systems from 1986 to 1998. He was a founding editor of the Journal of Automated Software Engineering and served on its editorial board from 1994 to 2010. In 1997 he was awarded the ACM’s Recognition of Service Award. He is a senior member of ACM and the IEEE Computer Society.
Last updated: 2013.
Sam Kamin retired in June 2013, after 33 years with the University of Illinois. Kamin obtained his PhD from the State University of New York Stony Brook in 1979 and came to Illinois in 1980.
In 1999, Kamin became director of undergraduate programs. He served as director until 2007 and led a reevaluation of the computer science curriculum. During that time, CS 242: Programming Studio was designed and launched. This course enabled students to give and receive critiques on programs they and their classmates have written.
Kamin became interested in educational technology. His project called Students Learn in Collaborative Environments (SLICE) is a framework for programming tablets for classroom use. In one application of the framework, several tablets are distributed to students, and the classwork that those students do can be seen and discussed by the rest of the class, an approach that can benefit both the instructor and the rest of the students.
Kamin’s main area of research was programming languages. In recent years, he worked in the area of run-time program specialization, studying optimization, and type-checking issues, as well as applications (most recently, matrix-vector multiplication). He has also published in the areas of formal methods, high-performance computing, and educational technology.
Kamin is the author of Programming Languages: An Interpreter-Based Approach, a textbook on programming languages, and is co-author of introductory books on Mathematica, C ++, and Java.
Following his retirement, Kamin moved to New York City to be closer to family. He plans to remain actively involved in the computer science world, continuing to learn and putting his knowledge to work in areas such as educational technology, programming languages and compilers.
Last updated: 2013.
William Kubitz first came to the University of Illinois as an undergraduate in 1957. He received his BS and MS in physics in 1961 and 1962, respectively. He then went to work for General Electric in Milwaukee. In 1964 he returned to Illinois for a PhD in electrical engineering, which he completed in 1968.
During his doctoral studies, he was a member of W. J. Poppelbaum’s research group, which was involved in digital and analog systems for the ILLIAC III computing system.
After receiving his doctorate, Kubitz stayed at the university, first as a postdoctoral assistant and then as a faculty member. His research focused on graphics, VLSI, and circuits. He helped build one of the world’s first color painting systems by combining an analog/digital system from a color monitor and a magnetic video disk on which the user could outline a shape and then color it in.
In 1985 he became associate head of the CS Department. He was instrumental in affecting many important changes. He helped establish the department’s first PC labs. He oversaw additions (completed in 1989) to the DCL building (the department’s home at the time), including the addition of a third floor.
He served on many campus committees that had major impact on the technology used by the university. He was one of the leaders that pushed to network the entire campus. He also remained actively involved in ensuring that the department’s curriculum kept pace with the developing technologies. He was one of the leaders in the department’s first online course offerings.
Kubitz was one of the key players to guide the planning, construction, and move-in of the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science. His close work with the architects and faculty provided a building that enables the department to thrive and grow. Kubitz retired in 2000, but remained actively involved with all phases of the Siebel Center construction and occupation.
Last updated: 2013.
Steven LaValle received his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1990, 1993, and 1995, respectively. He then went to Stanford University in 1995, where he was a postdoctoral researcher and then lecturer. In 1997 he became an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University. In summer 2000 he was a visiting faculty member at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico. In 2001 he returned the University of Illinois, joining the Department of Computer Science, where he currently holds the rank of professor.
LaValle is a recognized expert in robotics. He focuses on the design of planning algorithms, examining problems that involve continuous spaces, complicated geometric constraints, differential constraints, and/or sensing uncertainties. In addition is interested both in theoretical analysis and practical implementation issues.
In 2004-2007, LaValle served as the coordinator of graduate admission and advancement. In this position he spearheaded the CS Department’s graduate program, supervised admissions policies, and coordinated recruitment efforts.
Currently, LaValle is on leave from the university, and he is working as principal scientist at Oculus VR, which is developing Oculus Rift, a low-cost virtual reality headset for immersive gaming.
At Illinois, LaValle has appeared on the List of Teachers Ranked Excellent by Their Students numerous times. He received the C. W. Gear Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from the CS Department in 2003. In 2009 he received the Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences and Mathematics from the Association of American Publishers.
LaValle is author of two books: Planning Algorithms (2006) and Sensing and Filtering: A Fresh Perspective Based on Preimages and Information Spaces (2012). In addition he is author or co-author of numerous book chapters, journal articles, and conference presentations. In 2012 he was named a University Scholar, a distinction that recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.
Last updated: 2013.
After receiving his BS at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1969 and his MS and PhD from Purdue University in 1971 and 1973, respectively, Dennis Mickunas joined the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1973. During his time in the CS Department, Mickunas conducted research on programming languages, compilers, dynamic security policy architectures, and component-based operating systems. He was a co-principal investigator on numerous research grants and contracts from industry and government agencies, and he held visiting research positions with Texas Instruments Corporate Engineering Center in Dallas and with NASA/Ames Institute for Advanced Computations in Sunnyvale, California.
Mickunas taught a variety of computer science courses, engaged in outreach to prospective students and parents, and provided academic counseling to engineering students. He was co-author of An Introduction to Computer Science Using Java (2nd ed., 2001), as well as two book chapters, 38 refereed papers, and 37 technical reports. He was an assistant dean (a rotating position) in the College of Engineering, and he served as associate head of the Computer Science Department from 2000 until his retirement in 2004.
Mickunas was an entrepreneur as well as an academician. In 1977, he co-founded Small Systems Services Corporation, a company that developed compilers for the fledgling microcomputer industry. In 1981, he developed the industry’s first Fortran compiler for the then-new IBM PC. In the following years, he went on to become a principal in three additional entrepreneurial ventures.
Mickunas has been named to the College List of Excellent Advisors (1998, 1999), honored as a recipient of the Anderson Consulting Advising Award (2000), and recognized as an Engineering Council Outstanding Advisor (2000). He is also a member of the honor societies Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Xi.
Upon his retirement in 2004, Mickunas attended law school at the University of Illinois and graduated cum laude in December 2006. Today he is licensed in both Florida and Illinois, and concentrates his practice on personal injury, consumer fraud, estate planning, and estate administration.
Last updated: 2013.
Jed Taylor is the assistant director of the Technology Entrepreneur Center and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) at EnterpriseWorks. Taylor spends his time helping students become innovative entrepreneurs and helping faculty members launch their new ventures.
Taylor earned his master’s in computer science at the University of Illinois in 2003. He was also a member of the Siebel Scholar class of 2003. He received his MBA from the University of Illinois in 2005 and went on to work at Honeywell Aerospace as a project manager, where he was in the leadership development program. Taylor received the “high potential” classification, given to the top 2% of new employees.
In 2007, Taylor joined the startup CleanMake (later called Pattern Insight) at the request of the startup’s founder and his former faculty advisor, Professor Yuanyuan Zhou. Taylor moved back to Champaign to run sales and operations. He oversaw sales growth from $40K in the first quarter of 2007 to over $5M during the U.S. economic recession. He was the first employee of Pattern Insight and helped grow the company from a professor/student startup to a successful exit to VMware in 2012.
Since 2010, Taylor has served as an EIR at EnterpriseWorks, the University of Illinois’ top-ranked high-tech incubator in the Research Park. As an EIR, he consults with 20 to 30 faculty startups a year, helping them launch their ventures. He provides mentoring, shares lessons learned, and connects them with alumni, investors, and other successful entrepreneurs.
After leaving Pattern Insight in 2011, Jed has run the day-to-day operations of the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) in the College of Engineering. The mission of the TEC is to create the next generation of great entrepreneurs from the College of Engineering at Illinois. In addition, he strives to help build a strong tech community in Champaign, serving on the Board of Directors and advisory boards of several tech startups in the Champaign area.
Last updated: 2013.