Donald B. Gillies
2011 Distinguished Achievement Memorial Award
University of Illinois computer science professor Donald B. Gillies, a native of Canada, did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto, and received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1953. While in graduate school he worked as a graduate assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study with John von Neumann in the fields of game theory and computer science. Before coming to the University of Illinois in 1956, he spent two years with the National Research Development Corporation at Cambridge University and London, England. He was among the first mathematicians to become involved in the computer field, helping to program the first Sputnik orbit and later discovering three new prime numbers in the course of checking out Illiac II. Before his death in 1975, he was experimenting with educational uses and networking possibilities of minicomputers.
Professor Gillies was an inspiration to his students, taking an interest in both their professional and personal lives. Long before timesharing terminals, minicomputers and microprocessors made “hands on” computer experience commonplace, he recognized the need for students to have this opportunity and implemented a system to provide it. Throughout his work and teaching he stressed the importance of the ethical use of computing machines in contemporary science. Dedicated to the honest uses of technology, environmentally concerned, a man of wit, vigor and understanding, he challenged and stimulated all who knew him.
The Donald B. Gillies Lectureship in Computer Science was established in the department of computer science in remembrance of his legacy. The lectureship continues to enrich the lives of students and colleagues as an appropriate memorial to a man whose intellectual excellence and moral purpose made him a distinguished teacher and scientist.