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Contact: Christine Payton Oct. 30, 2009
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
Wilson Dietz first met Dr. James R. Oliver when Dietz was a high school student in Egan, La.

“ In 1946, when he was a fighter pilot, he buzzed our high school,” Dietz recalled. “He later took some of us up for a ride.”

And later that year, Oliver taught Dietz and his classmates when their teacher fell ill. He would meet Oliver again after high school.

“ I came to USL after Korea to study chemistry. As luck would have it, I had Dr. Oliver as my professor,” he said.

Dietz, who now lives in Florida and works as docent with NASA, was also a student in the first computer science class taught by Oliver. It was a course outside of his curriculum, but one he credits with launching his career at Boeing and later NASA.

“ I would go on job interviews and the employers weren’t interested in the fact that I won the Electrical Engineering Award,” said Dietz. “They were more interested in this computer science class I had taken.”

He was present Friday when UL Lafayette officially named the computer science building the James R. Oliver Hall.

It was a fitting tribute on all accounts. “No other name is big enough for this,” said UL Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie. “Dr. Oliver was a man of many interests and he had the energy and stamina to pursue them all.”

James Oliver Jr. described his father as someone who was always in a good mood and never had a bad thing to say about anyone. “He never said ‘I told you so,’ he was humble and unpretentious. He was also a perfectionist in the concept of time compression. He did all of this tirelessly and without regret,” he said.

Oliver is known as the “father of computing” at UL Lafayette. In 1960, he obtained a grant from the National Science Foundation to acquire an IBM 1620, the first digital computer used on UL Lafayette’s campus.

He also formed the first student chapter – in the world – of the Association of Computing Machinery. Today, there are over 500 ACM student chapters in 30 countries.

Oliver initiated the university’s master’s program in computer science. UL Lafayette awarded its first master’s degree in computer science in 1964.

Oliver created the university’s bachelor’s program in computer science in 1966. He also developed its doctoral program in computer science – the first in Louisiana – in 1968.

Several years later, UL Lafayette’s Department of Computer Science was established in 1973; Dr. Terry Walker was the first department head.

And in 1975, the university installed what was then the largest computer system in the state. Besides Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), UL Lafayette was the only other university to have the MULTICS system. In 1984, the Center for Advanced Computer Studies was created and in 1986, the Ph.D. degree program in Computer Engineering was established.

All of Friday’s events were part of the Louisiana Computing Carnival 2009 – an event to celebrate 50 years of computing at UL Lafayette and the 25th anniversary of the Center for Advanced Computer Studies.

“Fifty years ago, UL Lafayette offered the first course in computer science. Not many universities had even heard about this new invention,” said Dr. Magdy Bayoumi, director of CACS and department head for Computer Science. “From there, UL Lafayette developed an excellent computer science program, highly regarded all over the world.”

In addition to the building dedication, the Carnival included a workshop highlighting the impact of computing and Internet revolution, poster presentations focusing on research and student projects, a building tour and a banquet.

The workshop continues Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

For more information, contact CACS at (337) 482-6854 or visit www.cacsconference.com.


About UL Lafayette
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the second largest university in the state, with over 16,000 students. It’s a public institution that awards bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. It includes diverse offerings from the humanities to scientific research and leads the nation in areas like computer science, biology and nursing. Its student-athletes – Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns – compete in NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate competition.

Document last revised Friday, October 30, 2009 1:44 PM

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