Growth of a Department

A Personal History of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill

Staff: Administrative and Technical

As the Department grew, Fred, who was and is at heart a researcher, was feeling the pinch of administration, especially in responding to increasing demands imposed by South Building, Raleigh, and Washington.

As early as the 1972-73 annual report, and well before the major federal awards just cited, he recommended the appointment of a senior professional administrative assistant. Around that time Fred went to talk with Dean Gaskin, and the following conversation ensued. "If you can give me twenty thousand dollars, I can hire a first-class computer scientist half-time." "Who?" "Me." Fred was proposing to engage a department administrator. Intrigued by the elaboration of Fred's statement, Gaskin eventually made the half-time slot and the money available. Fred then recruited Jim Robb, Jr., who became associate chairman in November 1974. Jim was a former executive vice-president of Continental Telephone, who had taken early retirement and followed his son (Jim Robb, III) through our M.S. program. Although our financial challenges were several orders of magnitude smaller than what Jim had been accustomed to, he served us willingly for one year before moving on to work as a computer professional.

By 1975-76, Fred responded further to time pressure by sending, in response to each request from another office in the University, a form letter saying that the Department could not timely satisfy the request. After almost a year's vacuum, Jim Robb was succeeded by John Leonarz, who remained three years. A patent attorney, John made some of the early contributions to helping bring the University's intellectual property policies into the information age. After John moved to the Research Triangle Institute, Fred offered the position to Gary Bishop for two years.

Lib Moore in New West in 1980 (Photo by Mike Pique)

Lib Moore in the New West headquarters in 1980. (Photo: Mike Pique, © Department of Computer Science, UNC-Chapel Hill)
Because Gary was still a graduate student, the dean would not approve use of the title "associate chairman," so Gary served part-time as "executive officer" during 1979-81. Meanwhile, Steve Pizer was named Assistant Chairman, with a small stipend, to assist Fred with assorted academic matters. That function had been performed as early as 1972-73 by a faculty member serving as the one-person "administration committee."

In May 1981, after Gary returned full-time to Ph.D. studies, the administrative position was offered to Captain Ralph Mason, a retired U.S. Navy aviator with master's degrees in both economics and business administration. Ralph has been at the helm of the Department's business enterprise ever since. His title is Associate Chairman for Administration; the other position was renamed Associate Chairman for Academics. Figure 7 lists the holders of those two positions.

Whereas established departments have long had state-funded technical support positions, such as equipment technicians and stockroom clerks, we have not. In March 1971, Jim Ross became the Department's first full-time technician, struggling valiantly to keep our growing fleet of terminals and printers working. We have continued to add hardware and software technicians, but still have to tax contracts and grants heavily to support the computing and communication infrastructure.

Secretarial and bookkeeping support has also been funded only in part by the state. Catherine Perry joined us in 1978 as full-time accounting technician. Her volume of business has continued to expand since then, and part-time and later full-time assistants have been added. The secretarial and office support staff has grown fitfully, as the dean occasionally made a state- supported position available and as major and minor research grants were taxed for secretarial support.

Next Section: "Middle Adulthood: 1987-94"

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