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Campbell Builds a Track Record of Giving Back

7/27/2018 10:52:34 AM David Mercer, Illinois Computer Science

Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Professor Roy H. Campbell
Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Professor Roy H. Campbell
Few people have been associated with Illinois Computer Science as long as Professor Roy H. Campbell.

Campbell came to the department in 1976, just after earning his PhD in CS from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and he’s never left.

Initially, that was not the plan.

“No, I had not thought I would stay in the Midwest,” said Campbell, who is the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Professor in Computer Science.

But he found many reasons to stay, and as many reasons to give back to the department and the university.

Campbell and his wife, Ann Campbell (Master of Urban Planning, ’79), have made donations to the Department of Computer Science and other parts of the university for at least 22 consecutive years, dating to at least the 1990s.

Campbell jokes that his track record of generosity is a result of longevity – “not everyone’s been here since the ‘90s. Perhaps after they’ve been here for a while they’ll start to do the same.”

But Campbell admits there’s more to it than simple staying power. The department, university, and Champaign and Urbana won him over in ways that he never expected.

“I really enjoy this place,” he said. “I think it has a great Midwestern character. (And) the students are just fabulous – that’s one good reason for being here.”

Those students have included Nayeem Islam (PhD ’94), former head of Qualcomm Research Silicon Valley; Pankaj Jalote (PhD ‘85), director of the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology; and Manuel Roman (PhD ’03), head of engineering for Essential’s Home project, as well as current students such as Faraz Faghri and Shadi Noghabi.

Many of Campbell’s donations are targeted to the department, giving it money to spend as it sees fit to benefit those students, or the work of the faculty, he said.

Campbell grew up in a London suburb, eight or so miles from the center of the city. That Midwestern character he talks about wasn’t built into him. But he grew to appreciate it.

“There is a certain element of matter-of-factness about the living in the Midwest, and that fact that not everything’s given because you’re living on the East or the West Coasts,” he said. “So I think there’s a down-to-Earth set of values in the Midwest that’s different from somewhere else.”

He also found benefits to life in a smaller college town that he wouldn’t have imagined.

London is an urban magnet for the world that has almost literally everything many people imagine they want, but Campbell notes that, when he was growing up on the city’s outskirts, it was so dense and crowded that it might take 90 minutes to travel those eight miles. Trips to the center of the city and all of the arts and culture it had to offer weren’t something he could just do any time he chose.

Now, he and his wife regularly see performances at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on campus. And it’s another place to which they make regular donations.

Campbell also sees the university and department as survivors – surviving and thriving even as politics have at times made state support uneven, and as commercial development on the country’s coasts drew financial resources in their directions.

“I certainly feel like giving back a little to Illinois just because it has given me a place to be – bring up my kids, work, do my research – that has a unique character,” Campbell said.