By Lynn Shea
A long-awaited ceremony to formally install William H. Sanders as the 15th dean of the College of Engineering and celebrate the extraordinary gift to establish the Dr. William D. and Nancy W. Strecker Dean’s Chair that Sanders now holds was held on Thursday, Nov. 3.
Sanders joined Carnegie Mellon in January 2020 only months after the dean’s chair was created and just weeks before the campus transitioned to remote instruction status in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, causing the university to postpone the ceremony.
Sanders previously served as a tenured professor and held the Herman M. Dieckamp Endowed Chair in Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests included secure and dependable computing and security, as well as resiliency metrics and evaluation, with a focus on critical infrastructures. He has published more than 270 technical papers and has also directed work at the forefront of national efforts to make the U.S. power grid smart and resilient.
He was the founding director of the University of Illinois’ Information Trust Institute, served as director of the Coordinated Science Laboratory and was head of the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 2014-18. He also co-founded the Advanced Digital Sciences Center in Singapore in 2009, which was Illinois’ first international research facility.
Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian thanked the search committee for not only bringing Sanders to Carnegie Mellon but for also resolving what he called a decades-long tug of war between the pair.
“In addition to our overlapping research interests in dependability and cybersecurity, for years he was trying to recruit me to Illinois while I was trying to recruit him back to the University of Michigan, where Bill received three degrees and I spent 21 years as a faculty member,” said Jahanian.
As the inaugural recipient of the Strecker Dean’s Chair, Sanders will have critical funding that will empower faculty and student scholars and enable the College of Engineering to focus on transformative results that drive the intellectual and economic vitality of the community, nation and world.
In his opening remarks, Provost James H. Garrett Jr. said, “Under Dean Sanders’ leadership, the College of Engineering is a place where excellence and innovation thrive. It is a place that molds creative and technically strong engineers who pioneer solutions to global challenges. And this goes beyond the programs here in Pittsburgh. Dean Sanders has been instrumental in growing engineering programming at CMU-Africa — our campus in Rwanda — that is flourishing thanks to his leadership and vision.”
Nancy Strecker, a Harvard graduate, who along with her husband Bill made the extraordinary $15 million gift to endow the dean’s chair of the College of Engineering, professes herself to have the zeal of the converted.
“This is a truly great engineering school where you practice what you preach. Collaboration is the heart and soul of Carnegie Mellon and no one is more collaborative than Bill Sanders,” said Nancy Strecker.
Bill Strecker is a triple alumnus of the Carnegie Mellon’s electrical engineering program, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 1966, 1967 and 1971. For nearly three decades, he worked at Digital Equipment Corporation, where he served as consulting engineer, senior vice president of engineering, chief technology officer and senior vice president of corporate strategy. He earned 16 patents for his breakthrough engineering designs and led the development of the highly successful VAX computer architecture.
Nancy Strecker also had an extensive career with Digital Equipment Corporation, where she and Bill met. She built and led an award-winning worldwide corporate sales team and DEC’s global pharmaceutical industry business unit before ultimately retiring as vice president of global customer programs.
Sanders thanked the Streckers, Garrett, Jahanian and all in attendance, and emphasized that his accomplishments were only possible because of many talented people who contributed along the way.
“We do work that matters to shape the world for real and enduring good,” he said.
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