Department of 
Computer Science

Tim Quigg Thrives in Third Career
Posted: 10 November 1999

Higher education is Tim Quigg's third career and the one he said "every other job in my life has prepared me for."

He taught school in North Carolina, held a governor-appointed post in state government for nearly a dozen years and started two successful computer software companies before joining the University's Contracts and Grants office in 1991. But his achievements over the past four years are what earned him one of the coveted Chancellor's Awards for 1999.

Quigg's honor is a direct reflection of his skill in managing the top-ranked computer graphics department in the country: the University's Department of Computer Science. As associate chair for administration and finance he received accolades from department Chair Stephen Weiss for "proving to be an excellent manager of both people and money. He can leverage scarce resources better than anyone else I've ever seen."

The complexity of Quigg's job doesn't seem to phase him. He reaches into his tool chest of skills and pulls out the perfect combination of technical competence and human understanding to secure major grants and equipment gifts, negotiate contracts and royalty agreements, and manage the department's patent and license technologies.

"Our building is now full of machines bearing the sticker, `Donated by Intel.' They should really say `Donated by Intel with help from Tim Quigg,'" wrote Weiss in his nomination letter.

Big proposals yield big rewards
When 12 schools were invited by Intel Corporation to submit proposals for a large equipment gift, Quigg's leadership in pulling together many high-quality faculty research projects into one convincing $3 million package helped win full funding, along with the acknowledgment that it was the strongest proposal submitted.

But in the time between being awarded the equipment and getting it, the computer hardware originally worth $3 million was selling for only about $2.5 million. Quigg again went to bat and convinced Intel to add about 60 machines to the award, bringing the value back up to $3 million.

When members of the University's faculty designed PixelFlow, a very high-performance graphics computer, Hewlett Packard wanted to license the technology and produce a commercial version. Quigg was able to negotiate an agreement that generated substantial royalty revenue for the department and the University.

When HP later decided to abandon the product, Quigg jumped on the opportunity and urged the computer giant to give the only PixelFlow machine in the world, along with all the spare parts, back to the University.

"Money from the royalties has come and gone, but this machine is the largest graphics computer on the planet and our graduate students are learning with it right now," Quigg said. "The ideas that came out of the genius of our faculty are being used, and down the road, the University will likely make money from it."

The art of negotiating
That's Quigg's way of doing business. Negotiating is a skill he uses daily and seems to have mastered. These, he said, are the fundamental rules he follows at the negotiating table:

  • Recognize that "winning" is when both parties go away satisfied with the result;

  • Develop a relationship where you are treating each other the way you want to be treated; and

  • Focus on what's really important.

The image of a tough negotiator, wheeling and dealing at the table, couldn't be further from the cheerful and confident image of Tim Quigg.

"I guess I'm one of those blessed people. I wake up with a smile and can't wait to get to work," Quigg said. "Most people in this department will say this is the best place they ever worked. We work hard and we laugh hard. We figure out a way to succeed without engaging in destructive competitions."

The whole is more important than the parts
Quigg pointed to the department's open atmosphere and the interdisciplinary nature of the business as reasons for its success.

"We have shared lab space, multiple people from different disciplines working on similar problems and experts from industries other than university all coming together in a very open atmosphere," Quigg said.

Noting that the department takes care of most business through committee structure, Quigg said every committee has faculty, staff and student representation.

"The whole," he said, "is more important than the individual parts."

Delighted with the award but reluctant to take praise for his accomplishments, Quigg said: "Clearly there is personal satisfaction in doing your job well, but my focus in the department is to support others doing the main enterprise of the University: education and research.

"When educators get to spend all their time educating, when researchers spend all their time engaged in research and when students spend all their time learning, we are succeeding in that goal."

Article originally published in the University Gazette, 10 November 1999.
(reprinted here by permission of the Gazette's editor).

For additional information, contact:
Claire L. Stone
Publications & Publicity Manager
(919) 962-1790

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Department of Computer Science
Campus Box 3175, Sitterson Hall
College of Arts & Sciences
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3175 USA
Phone: (919) 962-1700
Fax: (919) 962-1799

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Posted: 10 November 1999