In Memoriam: John Carlis

February 22, 2018

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering mourns the loss of Professor John Carlis, who passed away on Wednesday, February 21, 2018. Professor Carlis was a beloved member of our faculty and an inspiration to many within and beyond the department.

A faculty member with the department since 1981, Carlis benefitted generations of students, colleagues, and staff with his tireless mentoring, coaching, and humor. He brought joy to the people he touched and effortlessly found ways to amuse and befriend whoever he worked with—whether they be students looking for direction, faculty looking for advice, or leadership looking for guidance.

His support was unending and his positive attitude incorrigible, characteristics that were honored many times over. He received the Gordon Starr Service Award, and was a multiple winner of the Department’s Outstanding Instructor Award, as well as a multiple finalist for the Morse-Alumni Teaching Award.

For over a decade, Carlis served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies. During his tenure he led a committee that revised and streamlined our curriculum. His efforts have had a lasting and positive impact on our undergraduate students and helped improve advising and graduation rates. He also developed resources to help students navigate degree requirements and opportunities to enrich their experiences within the department and the university as a whole.

In 1996, Carlis was one of a small number of faculty instrumental in creating the Master of Science Program in Software Engineering (MSSE), a program in which he became a much-loved advisor and professor for the students and adjunct faculty.  Carlis’s oversight helped greatly in making the quality of the courses in the MSSE program its greatest asset and the adjunct faculty outstanding teachers.

After the successful launch of the MSSE program, Carlis tackled another major post-graduate program development effort—the Biomedical Informatics and Computations Biology Program (BICB). Having had long involvement in interdisciplinary research and teaching at the intersection between computer science and biology, Carlis was uniquely suited to serve as Director of Graduate Studies for the Bioinformatics Graduate Minor and as Associate Director of Graduate Studies for BICB. He was passionate about ensuring that the next generation of biological science researchers had the appropriate computation background; his work with cross-disciplinary graduate programs was a labor of love.​

The department was lucky to have such an inspirational teacher, mentor, and scholar. Always quick with a joke or pun that could make one laugh (or groan), Carlis left every room a happier place.

A memorial at the University of Minnesota in honor of Professor John Carlis's legacy will be held on Friday, April 6 from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the Campus Club on the fourth floor of Coffman Union. Questions on the gathering can be sent to  His obituary is available on StarTribune, while memories, condolences, and stories can be shared at  For anyone interested in giving to the John V. Carlis Memorial Fund which supports excellence in teaching and advising, please use the following link:

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