Donald B. Gillies Memorial Lecture
The Donald B. Gillies Memorial Lectureship in Computer Science was established at the University of Illinois through memorial gifts by family and friends, with a major contribution by the Digital Equipment Corporation.
Professor 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 calculate the first Sputnik orbit and later discovering three new prime numbers in the course of checking out ILLIAC II. (For nearly a decade, the latter was commemorated by the Mathematics Department with a postage mark stamped on all outgoing mail.) Before his death in 1975, he was experimenting with educational uses and networking possibilities of minicomputers.
Although a lifelong stutter affected his class lectures, 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. For example, during a family vacation to Canada, he picked up a newly developed Fortran compiler from the University of Waterloo so it could be implemented at Illinois, his son Don (MS CS '90, PhD CS '93) recalled. With its quick turnaround capabilities, this compiler enabled the university to offer programming classes to non-CS students for the first time.
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.
It is hoped that the Donald B. Gillies Lectureship in Computer Science will continue 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.
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