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Tuesday, January 23, 2001

  • Millions in 'information technology trust'
  • CS library collection also launched
  • 130 grads offer conference papers
  • Of learning, poverty, and more

Wes Graham

Millions in 'information technology trust'

A multi-million-dollar "information technology trust" is being established today in honour of the late J. W. (Wes) Graham, known as "the father of computing" at Waterloo. An opening celebration is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Dana Porter Library.

The J. W. Graham Information Technology Trust has received pledges of more than $5 million and has a goal of $10 million, the university's news bureau says, and "will play a central role in enhancing UW's achievements in research and education in information technology. It will provide a new level of encouragement and support for top undergraduate and graduate students."

Graham was awarded the Order of Canada shortly before his death in August 1999. "His talent and initiative were directly responsible for making computer technology accessible to students and he played a significant role in establishing the University's international reputation for teaching and research in information technology," professor emeritus Don Cowan says about his long-time colleague, who was a computer science professor and, for a time, dean of computing and communications.

He said Graham's former colleagues and students together with the university are setting up the trust to honour his leadership and innovation in education, his promotion of computer accessibility, and his success in linking the academic and business world. "This endowed Trust will strongly encourage cross-faculty initiatives related to information technology in order to continue the leadership so well exemplified by Wes Graham," Cowan said. "It will recognize exceptional teachers in information technology and promote strong relationships with the secondary school system."

Specifically, the trust will support University Professorships and J. W. Graham Fellowships/Scholarships in Information Technology.

Graham joined the UW faculty in 1959 and became director of the computing centre in 1962, working to make computing technology available to undergraduates at a time when few universities anywhere let their students get near computers. Discovering that computer software in the early 1960s was not well suited for teaching, he set out to find a solution. The result: WATFOR (the Waterloo Fortran Compiler), which was developed in only three months by Graham with a team of four students (Gus German, Jim Mitchell, Richard Shirley and Bob Zarnke) and a junior faculty member (Peter Shantz).

WATFOR attracted attention from many other universities facing the same problems in teaching computer programming, and provided the foundation of UW's international reputation for software development. Later came WATFIV (Waterloo Fortran IV) and a succession of other software packages, as well as two best-selling textbooks.

In 1981-82, three of his former students started a spin-off company, WATCOM, to develop and market educational software. He worked actively with these students and UW to establish a model for relationships between such companies and the university. WATCOM is now a division of Sybase, one of the world's largest software companies.

The Computer Systems Group, which Graham headed, operated much like a spinoff company, marketing WATFOR, WATFIV and other products, while remaining part of the university.

CS library collection also launched

The historical development of computation and computer science is the focus of the J. Wesley Graham History of Computer Science Research Collection in the UW library, also being launched today.

Susan Bellingham, head of special collections, said the library has received two unique groups of materials to begin the Graham Research Collection. "The first of these gifts, purchased with the assistance of Wes Graham's family, friends and colleagues, is made up of printed books ranging in date from the 17th to the 20th century," and the second is a mountain of Graham's own papers. She said both collections "depict, in different ways, society's developing need and use of mechanical, and finally electronic, devices to aid statistical analysis and calculation".

The Graham personal and professional papers, she said, provide important historical evidence about UW's early years. Graham, who began his career when UW was two years old, has been described as both "a Canadian pioneer in the field of computing" and as the individual "chiefly responsible for the university's international reputation in software development".

His papers provide a unique focus on the work of one of UW's early faculty members. Besides his academic career and his appointment as the university's first director of the computing centre, the papers cover other activities including his work with the Ontario ministry of education to design the first computer course for high schools and also drafts of the textbooks he wrote with his colleagues.

Other files reveal the growth of the emerging high-technology industries, which have become a major feature of the Kitchener-Waterloo area. The huge collection is currently being processed and will be available to researchers later in 2001.

In the book collection, the earliest item is a fifth edition of John Graunt's Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, published in 1676. Some of the other rarities and landmark works are more recent, all the way down to a 1955 imprint, Notes for Intensive Course for Practicing Engineers, "Digital Computers" and Data Processors presented at the University of Michigan summer session, and a first edition of Douglas Hartree's Numerical Analysis in its original dust-wrapper from 1952.

130 grads offer conference papers

Some 130 graduate students have submitted proposals for talks or poster presentations at the Graduate Student Research Conference to be held at UW April 4, 5 and 6, says a memo from the graduate studies office.

"The Organizing Committee would like to thank all graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who submitted abstracts," says Penny Pudifin, the office's communications and academic advisement co-ordinator.

She adds that on the day of the deadline, January 15, "some students experienced problems submitting their abstracts electronically." She has replied to all students whose submissions were received. Students who submitted a conference abstract and did not receive a confirmation of receipt should get in touch with her by e-mail (ppudifin@uwaterloo.ca) or phone (ext. 2845).

Pudifin says the conference committee is willing to consider late submissions for poster presentations. However, the submission of oral presentations is closed.

She promises that the April conference "will be an exciting event on campus", and the organizers are extending an invitation to the university and local community to attend the sessions to hear the speakers or view the poster presentations.

Of learning, and poverty, and more

Two major academic events are scheduled for today, just about simultaneously. First, the Heritage Resources Centre is sponsoring an "open discussion on alleviating poverty in Canadian urban areas". Project coordinator Beth Dempster tells more:
As well as providing an opportunity for exchange, the ideas that emerge in this open discussion will provide a basis for the second Workshop Series in Urban Environmental Management to be held in Waterloo in April 2001.

Initiated by the Urban Environmental Management Project, the first workshop series was held in spring 2000. It successfully brought together people from the university and local community to learn about and discuss a range of urban environmental issues. We are currently preparing publication of the proceedings. Our intention is to hold a similar series focused specifically on the alleviation of poverty in urban areas in the Canadian context.

The UEMP approaches planning and participation of these workshops in a civic, open and collaborative manner. We invite interested people to suggest topics, speakers, participants, format and other factors that would contribute to creative and constructive workshops. People are welcome to participate in the Open Discussion Forum, to join the workshop planning team, to attend the workshops (as presenter or participant), or to send us their suggestions.

Attendance is open to all who are interested, faculty and graduate students, in particular. We would appreciate knowing if you plan to come to the discussion forum, but it is not required.

She can be reached by e-mail at mbldemps@fes. The seminar runs from 3:30 to 5:00 today in Environmental Studies I room 221.

Second, there's a talk on "Learning in the Information Age: Teacher Centered Approach?", by Ana Maria Andrada of the Centro Blas Pascal for research and development in computer science and education, in Buenos Aires. Her talk is sponsored by the Women in Mathematics Committee. She offers an abstract:

The use of computers in teaching is a subject generating much controversy. Nowadays, our children, teens and young students belong to the Information Age, whereas educational organizations deal, instead, with post-industrial learning and teaching models. Students deal with a quite different way of perception, representation and concepts about exploring and getting information, structuring knowledge and building wisdom's networks. Computers can strongly facilitate dealing with all these issues, through its three main technologies: Multimedia, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet. Teachers must build a "bridge" between post-industrial teaching environments and our Information Age's learning audience. Technology involves its own pedagogy, which still needs to be developed.

Three cases will be considered: 1. Interactive Escher: exploring the art of the infinite -- a project developed for teaching math through tesselations, for 9th grade students, (14 years old), within the curriculum of the Federal Law of Education in several Latin American countries. 2. Fractals in African Cultures -- an interdisciplinary project. 3. Homeless children develop experience with computers.

Finally, we'll show how we are building at Duke University a syllabus that involves Website materials and homework, not only for getting information, but as learning environments developed and uploaded by the teachers themselves.

The talk starts at 4:00 in Davis Centre room 1351.

Also happening today:

Tomorrow afternoon, the InfraNet Project presents a seminar on "Adapting the Law for E-Commerce", by Ian Kyer, a UW graduate who's now practising computer and technology law with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin in Toronto. His talk will start at 2:30 Wednesday in Davis Centre room 1302.

And tomorrow the four-week series on "Eating for Energy" will get started. Sessions will run from 4:30 to 5:45 on four Wednesdays, says Linda Brogden in the health services department; anyone interested in signing up should get in touch with her at ext. 3544.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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