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2013 Distinguished Alumni Service Award

George Friedman
George Friedman

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.