Delay graduation? Are you kidding? Willie Miller's Indiana University friends refused to let him do that.
The result -- Miller earned his master’s of library science degree on time, and has gone on to a difference-making librarian career.
"Their faith in me helped me push through,” he said.
Miller, Jake Nadal, Chris Cason, Torsten Hoefler and Dong Yu received the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering’s prestigious 2022-23 Alumni Awards during a June 16 luncheon at the Virgil T. DeVault Alumni Center.
The Innovation Fellow Award recognizes individuals who are interested in connecting with the Luddy School to help cultivate the next generation of innovators and global leaders. They also must have demonstrated leadership and made a noteworthy and innovative contribution to their professions.
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni who make, or who have made, outstanding contributions to the fields of computer science, engineering, informatics, information science and/or library science.
The ILS Distinguished Alumni Award has been bestowed since 1978. The Luddy School, in collaboration with the Luddy Alumni Ambassador Board, created the Innovation Fellowship Award in 2021, and expanded the Distinguished Alumni Award to include alum from informatics, computer science and intelligent systems engineering.
Luddy Dean Joanna Millunchick couldn’t attend the luncheon, but gave a video presentation in which she praised the winners’ accomplishments.
“They represent the very best of what our school strives to teach with their creativity, innovation and accomplishments,” she said. “Their forward thinking continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
“Congratulations for these well-deserved awards. We’re so proud of Luddy alumni doing amazing things. Your success brings recognition to our school.”
Miller is the IUPUI University Library associate dean for communication and technology, a vice president of the IUPUI Faculty Council, and an adjunct faculty member at Luddy School Indianapolis. He’s led numerous successful IUPUI fundraising efforts. He has a national leadership role in the Association of College and Research Libraries. In 2012, he was named Outstanding New Librarian by the Indiana Library Foundation, and an Emerging Leader by the American Library Association.
"More than the amazing program I got to be part of at Indiana, and the incredible faculty I learned from and job opportunities I got,” Miller said, “my peers, classmates and friends at IU made a huge difference.
"I know there are good people everywhere, but the people at Indiana University are the best."
Miller flashed back to March of 2010 and a Wells Library study session. A grueling combination of an ambitious course load and multiple jobs left him ready to stay an extra semester or two to complete his degree. No way, his friends said. You will graduate as planned.
Miller is forever grateful.
"They said, 'You’re not going to delay graduation. We will help you. We'll do whatever we have to do to push you over the hump.'"
Miller’s impressive accomplishments are mirrored by the other winners.
Nadal is the director for preservation at the Library of Congress. He leads stewardship of the library’s national collections across all of its divisions. He oversees a team of 200 with a budget of $30 million. He also serves on the interagency Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee which convenes military, law enforcement, diplomatic and cultural agencies that guide U.S. policy and preservation efforts for cultural property worldwide, especially during armed conflict or natural disaster. He has promoted cooperative efforts in emergency response. He is a member of Luddy’s Dean’s Advisory Council.
“Indiana was the first place that I encountered the primary source,” he said. “I learned how transformative that could be. To have an object of the past be here in the present and think about its future. That set my career on the direction it’s had ever since.”
Nadal said he was fortunate to be at a university that valued library science as a dynamic discipline that connects people to the past and the future.
“You think about preservation to create a chain of care and engagement,” he said. “Indiana made a tremendous difference. I’ve gained so much by being connected to the university.”
Cason is a managing director at Accenture. After graduation, he began developing software for voice telephony applications at California’s ROLM Corporation before joining Summit Group and eventually becoming chief operating officer. In 2001, he formed Blue Horseshoe, a consulting company that focused on supply chain digital transformation, and guided it through significant growth until it was purchased by Accenture. He constantly advocates for the hiring of Luddy students. He’s also on the Luddy Dean’s Advisory Council, and was on the search committee that hired Dean Millunchick.
“I didn’t know when I showed up at IU that I would go into computer science,” Cason said. “I liked the thought of looking at chemistry, or somewhere in the sciences.
“As soon as I got into my computer science classes, it changed. It was the amount I felt the professors wanted you to learn. It was a gift they were sharing, and I was receiving a gift from them.”
It stuck with him then, and now.
“I have not achieved anything without somebody else. The people along the way define who you are and help you create.”
That included Luddy Computer Science Professor Dan Friedman, who attended the luncheon.
“I learned to learn,” Cason said. “All the tools I needed to learn strategically and analytically came at Indiana. It put me in place to be successful the rest of my life.”
Hoefler is Full Professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich, one of Europe’s top research institutions, and directs the internationally renowned Scalable Parallel Computing Laboratory. He’s among the world’s top scientists in high-performance computing, and won the prestigious Association for Computing Machinery’s Gordon Bell Prize, and the IEEE Sidney Fernbach Memorial Award. He was named a 2022 ACM Fellow, which recognizes the top 1 percent of ACM members for outstanding accomplishments in computing and information technology. He's receivednumerous best-paper awards at major conferences, including six at the prestigious Supercomputing Conference.
“I spent some of the best parts of my life at Indiana,” he said. “It was a refreshing mix of arts and science. It gave me a chance to combine social and academic.
“I’m trying to pass on the outstanding education I received at Indiana University to the next generation.”
Yu is Distinguished Scientist and vice general manager at Tencent AI Lab. He’s a pioneer in deep learning-based speech recognition. His work is the standard in the industry and the international research community. He has produced more than 300 papers and 100 patents. He was named an IEEE Fellow in 2018, an International Speech Communication Association Fellow in 2021 and a 2022 ACM/IEEE/ISCA Fellow. A world-renowned speaker, he participated in the 2018 LuddyFest.
“Indiana reinforced my passion for Artificial Intelligence,” Yu said. “I met some of the best students and professors in the world there. They inspired me. The school taught me to be curious and creative, and showed me how to use my knowledge to make a positive impact on the world.”
The alumni awards reflect a strong collaboration between the IU Alumni Association and the Luddy School, said Tricia Riveire Stumpf, CEO of the IU Alumni Association and chief alumni officer of Indiana University.
“Our university story continues to be written by those who study and serve at IU,” she said. “Some of the greatest ambassadors of a university are its alumni. You help tell the story of Luddy, and what it means to study and work in an ever-evolving field of informatics, computing and engineering.”