Bill Gear (MS ’57, PhD ’60), a pioneer in numerical analysis who spent 32 years at Illinois—first as a graduate student and later as a professor and department head—was always grateful for the great education and research opportunities he had when he was young. A native of England, he attended Cambridge at no cost and pursued graduate studies at Illinois thanks to education grants and fellowships.“I benefited from a lot of government programs that are regrettably no longer available to today’s students,” Gear said. “So, I wanted to give something back that will help future students.”
Gear and his wife Ann Lee Morgan have established a bequest (simple language added to their will with a corresponding fund agreement on file with the UI Foundation) that will provide financial support to CS @ ILLINOIS students and/or faculty, depending on the future value of their residual estate.
The C. William Gear Endowment in CS may be used to fund a new professorship or enhance funding for the three existing faculty and student awards that bear Gear’s name—awards that were established by his former students, other alumni, and faculty colleagues as a way to honor his dedicated service to the department.
In addition to being a faculty member, Gear served as department head for five years. Under his leadership, the department increased the number of faculty from 30 to 45, expanded the Digital Computer Lab, and launched an alumni newsletter.
As a researcher, Gear is perhaps best known for developing a new method for solving stiff differential equations, a type of problem related to systems that involve processes that happen on highly disparate time scales. The Gear Method has been used to calculate the degradation rate of steel containment vessels in nuclear reactors and analyze the time-dependent behavior of electronic circuits, among other uses.After retiring from Illinois, Gear became president of the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, NJ. He received the U of I’s 2001 Alumni Achievement Award, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and is a fellow of the IEEE, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).
“Bill Gear is a towering figure in our discipline, based on his foundational technical contributions and remarkable leadership at the helm of our Computer Science Department. Having his name associated with CS @ ILLINOIS in perpetuity is the perfect way of connecting future generations to Bill’s importance to the department,” said CS Department Head and Abel Bliss Professor Rob A. Rutenbar.
Note: originally published in Click! Magazine, 2016, volume I.