CITI renamed ‘Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology’

CITI renamed ‘Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology’


Rice’s Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI) has been renamed in honor of its founder and Rice alumnus, Ken Kennedy ’67, who died Feb. 7.

The new name — the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology — was announced today at a campus workshop celebrating Kennedy’s life and accomplishments.


“Thanks to the intellectual leadership of Ken Kennedy, Rice University was able to stake a claim as one of the nation’s trend-setting academic centers for computational research and education,” said President David Leebron. “We remain saddened by the loss of this remarkable colleague, but are immensely grateful that he produced an endeavor of enduring excellence in computer science. It is most fitting that our highly successful multidisciplinary Computer and Information Technology Institute, founded by Ken, should bear his name.”

In late 1986, Kennedy, David Hellums (dean of engineering at that time) and Sidney Burrus (then a colleague and professor of electrical and computer engineering) pitched to the advisory council of the George R. Brown School of Engineering the idea for an institute that promotes interdisciplinary research and education in computing technologies, computational engineering and information processing.

Kennedy was named CITI’s first director in 1987, and the institute has grown from its original 30 faculty members and research scientists to more than 120 today. At first rooted in the departments of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computational and Applied Mathematics and Statistics, the institute now includes faculty from 17 departments and nearly every school at Rice. An early vision of the founders was to create a home for the core academic disciplines. This vision was realized in 1996 with the completion of Anne and Charles Duncan Hall, which houses the institute.

* CITI’s many successes remain evident at Rice. The institute’s first major spin-off was Rice’s Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), which Kennedy headed. The center was set up in 1989 with a five-year, $22.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation  (NSF).  The initial five-year award was extended for a second five-year term.  Over the 10-year period, the grant amounted to more than $50 million.

* After the “sunset” of CRPC in 2001, Kennedy created the Center for High Performance Software under CITI to serve as the umbrella for research in high-performance activities at Rice.

* Connexions, which focuses on publishing open-access scholarly content, was founded under the CITI umbrella in 1999.

* Supercomputers that CITI has acquired with multimillion-dollar NSF and industry grants provide a shared resource for the benefit of any Rice faculty members whose research depends on large-scale computing.

* A graduate fellowship fund at Rice endowed by global supercomputer leader Cray Inc. was named in honor of Kennedy. The first recipient, announced last month, is Mackale Joyner, a doctoral student specializing in high-performance computing.

* CITI is involved with several lecture series that bring well-known speakers from industry and other universities to campus to discuss various aspects of information technology as well as the impact of the technology on the humanities and public policy.

“The institute’s power lies in its ability to look beyond individual faculty members and departments and support the creation of teams that can successfully leverage our key research strengths,” said Moshe Vardi, CITI director. “Our goals are to be a catalyst for research collaboration across school, department, center and laboratory boundaries and to encourage and develop close partnerships with industry, government and other universities.”

The institute’s original research focus on robotics and parallel computation has expanded into digital signal processing, distributed computing, sensor-nets, networking, communications, optimization, data modeling and analysis, bioinformatics, nanoengineering and technologies in education.

Jan Odegard, the institute’s executive director, said CITI’s affiliated researchers are pushing the envelope and developing tools and software that will impact society down the road and help Rice’s industrial partners become more competitive. “Our research partners are able to leverage Rice’s annual research investment in information technology of $30 million,” he said.

Sallie Keller-McNulty, dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering, said the Computer Information and Technology Institute should be viewed as Kennedy’s legacy. “For many people within and outside the Rice community, Ken represented IT research and education at Rice,” she said. “We still miss his mentoring, strategic vision, education and research, and naming CITI in his honor will ensure that his invaluable contributions to Rice are never forgotten.”

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