Donald B. Gillies Professorship in Computer Science

Donald Gillies The Donald B. Gillies Chair in Computer Science honors the late Professor Gillies (1928-1975), who was a member of the faculty in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1956 to 1975. Gillies earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in Canada in 1949 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1953. At Princeton, Gillies worked as a research assistant to John Von Neumann, a pioneer of the modern digital computer. He was among the first mathematicians to become involved in the computer field, helping to calculate the first Sputnik orbit and later discovering three new prime numbers in the course of checking out ILLIAC II.

Professor Gillies was an inspiration to his students. Long before the personal computer made "hands-on" computer experience commonplace, he recognized the need for students to have this opportunity and implemented several systems to provide it. Throughout his work and teaching, Gillies stressed the importance of the ethical use of computing machines in contemporary society. He was dedicated to the honest uses of technology, environmentally concerned, a man of wit, vigor, and understanding, Gillies challenged and stimulated those who knew him.


Lawrence (“Larry”) White established the Donald B. Gillies Endowed Faculty Positions in Computer Science Fund in 1999 with a gift of $2 million. White launched his programming career almost as soon as he got to college. While working on his degrees at Illinois, he spent four years as a student programmer on the PLATO project. White graduated with a master’s degree in computer science in 1976 after having earned his bachelor’s degree in math and computer science the previous year. After graduation, White stayed on at Illinois, eventually joining NCSA as a development manager. In the 1990s, he moved to Microsoft, joining the Exchange Server and SQL Server groups.

“Professor Gillies demonstrated tremendous enthusiasm for everything related to computers and a willingness to lead us, his students, into his world,” said White. “He acted like sharing his breadth of knowledge was a delight. Even though I’ve forgotten everything that was on the tests, I’ve never forgotten what it means to be a good teacher.”


Vikram S. AdveAn expert in compiler technology, Vikram S. Adve, the current Donald B. Gillies Professor, has developed tools and techniques to improve the performance, programmability, reliability, and security of computer systems. Most notably, Adve and Chris Lattner (MS CS ’02, PhD ’05), his Ph.D. student, co-designed the LLVM Compiler Infrastructure, which has enabled novel compilation capabilities for a wide range of computer languages. LLVM has unified the compilation strategies for static, bytecode, and dynamic programming languages, enabling a wide range of research and commercial uses.  In fact, LLVM is now widely used in industry, ranging from mobile devices (e.g., iOS and Android) to supercomputers (e.g., at Cray and Intel) to data centers (e.g., at Google).  Adve, Lattner, and Evan Cheng received the prestigious ACM Software System Award in 2012 for co-developing LLVM.

 Building upon LLVM, Adve and his students have also made significant contributions to computer system security.  The Secure Virtual Architecture (SVA) provides a practical compiler-based virtual machine that enforces strong guarantees for commodity operating systems, including memory safety and the kernel’s control flow integrity. Adve’s student John Criswell (BS CS ’03, PhD ’14) was recognized for SVA with Honorable Mentions for both the 2014 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award and the 2014 ACM SIGOPS Dennis M. Ritchie Doctoral Dissertation Award.

 Adve’s group has also focused on techniques to make parallel programming easier and more portable. These have included automated fault diagnosis and debugging techniques, a compiler infrastructure for heterogeneous parallel systems, and ways to guarantee that parallelizing a sequential program will not change the program’s output. The latter research was implemented as an extension to the Java programming language called Deterministic Parallel Java (DPJ). Adve’s student Robert Bocchino (PhD ’10) won the 2010 ACM SIGPLAN Outstanding Dissertation Award for DPJ.

 In 2014, Adve was named an ACM Fellow, for “For developing the LLVM compiler and for contributions to parallel computing and software security.” His other recognitions include University Scholar by the University of Illinois (2015); the Most Influential CGO 2004 Paper Award (2014); best paper awards at PLDI 2005, SOSP 2007, and ICSE 2011; and the C.W. Gear Outstanding Junior Faculty Award by Illinois Computer Science (2002).  During academic year 2017-2018, Adve served as Interim Department Head for Illinois Computer Science.