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John L. Hennessy named new engineering dean

John L. Hennessy - a Stanford computer scientist with strong ties to Silicon Valley - has been selected to succeed James F. Gibbons as dean of the School of Engineering.

Hennessy, the Willard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor in the School of Engineering, has been at Stanford since 1977. He served as director of the Computer Systems Laboratory for 10 years before assuming the chairmanship of the computer science department in 1994. He will take the helm of the engineering school on June 16, 1996.

Gibbons will continue as dean until that date, when he will assume the title and role of Special Counsel to the President and Provost for Industry Relations. In his new position, Gibbons will work to improve relations between Stanford and industry.

Hennessy's selection is the result of an extensive national search that began last April and attracted about 70 nominations and applications, including a number from sitting deans at other institutions, according to Joseph Goodman, professor and chairman of electrical engineering, who headed the search committee.

The strength of Hennessy's research, his reputation as an educator and his experience as an academic administrator, plus the fact that he is an entrepreneur who is very well connected in Silicon Valley and the computer industry, were cited by those involved in the selection process as major factors in the decision.

"I couldn't be happier. He has the ideal background and is just the person that we need," said outgoing dean Gibbons.

Hennessy lists the thorough integration of computing in both research and teaching as something that he will push. "Clearly, computer technology is becoming a pervasive force in engineering," he said. Increasingly, computers are being used not just as analytic tools but as interactive design tools for everything from computer chips to buildings. "That is something I'd like to see not only become pervasive in our research programs - and indeed it has started - but also become pervasive in our curriculum so that students really learn how the computer becomes a design tool."

Hennessy's research has had a major impact on the computer industry. In the 1980s he and a colleague showed that small groups of graduate students and professors could design extremely fast, easily manufactured computer chips using an alternative architecture, called RISC (reduced instruction set computers), which originated at IBM. These and similar studies attracted the interest of computer companies and soon IBM, Hewlett-Packard and a number of other companies were building RISC systems. In 1984, while on a year's sabbatical, Hennessy helped found the company MIPS Computer Systems, based on Stanford RISC research.

Two textbooks that he has co-written on computer architecture - one for graduates and another for undergraduates - have won broad acceptance and have led to major changes in the way the subject is taught in classrooms throughout the country.

Hennessy received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University, and his master's and doctoral degrees in computer science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and is a recipient of the National Science Foundation's Presidential Young Investigators Award. He has served on numerous committees on computer and information science for the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council and other organizations.


By David Salisbury

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