Cheers to 50 Years

Computer Science & Engineering (CS&E) at the University of Minnesota has come a long way since its founding in 1970. The department has made tremendous progress and become one of the most vibrant and interdisciplinary departments in the college, the University, and the computer science field. Department founders, past and current faculty, alumni, students, and supporters converged on campus on November 22-23 to celebrate a half century of achievement and innovation.

On Friday evening, more than 160 alumni, faculty, and friends joined together for a celebratory dinner. In prepared remarks, President Joan T.A. Gabel proclaimed how “fifty years is…an incredible legacy of computer science, of innovation, of entrepreneurship, of impact, of the development of new ideas, of cultivation of the future. I hope that this is the beginning of the next fifty years of even greater innovation.” Key individuals were recognized, including department founder Krzysztof Frankowski and this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award winners, Jon Herlocker (Ph.D. ’00) and Panos Pardalos (Ph.D. ’85).

On Saturday, November 23, current students joined alumni and faculty to get an update on the “State of the Department” from the current department head, Mats Heimdahl. Keynote speaker, Jaime Teevan of Microsoft, gave a talk on “Focusing on What Matters” and encouraged everyone in the room to use computing to create productive and successful experiences for people across the world. Attendees were also treated to alumni panels, robotics and virtual reality demonstrations, the graduate research showcase, and of course, a chance to connect and reminisce with classmates, professors, and friends.

Coming home

For many attendees, the 50th anniversary festivities were a homecoming of sorts. Alumna Nancy Reed (Ph.D. ’95) shared that it was nice to “come home” and enjoyed the chance for alumni to interact with current students. A current faculty member said the event “brings back so many old memories and it feels so good to see and connect with some of the students I mentored".

Original faculty member Bill Franta connected with colleague and department founder Kris Frankowski for the first time in over 35 years. When asked how long it had been since the two had been in touch, Franta replied “well, I left in 1982”.

CS&E memories

What’s your favorite memory from CS&E over the last 50 years? Share your story with us as we continue to celebrate our proud history