at the University of Waterloo
James Wesley (Wes) Graham was a major figure in the history of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. His talent and initiative were directly responsible for making computer technology accessible to students, and he played a significant role in establishing the University’s international reputation for teaching and research in information technology. His many contributions to the development of software and hardware have had a major impact on the computing industry, and in particular, on several of UW’s most successful spin-off companies. A group of Wes Graham’s former colleagues and students together with the University, is now seeking to establish a named Trust to honor Wes Graham’s leadership and innovation in education, the promotion of computer accessibility, and his success in linking the academic and business world. This endowed Trust will strongly encourage cross-faculty initiatives related to information technology in order to continue the leadership so well exemplified by Wes Graham.
A Computing Pioneer
Wes Graham came from IBM to the newly established University of Waterloo in 1959 as Assistant Professor of Mathematics. His love of teaching and his talent for problem-solving soon lead him to take a leadership role in computing education at the University.
When Waterloo established its computer centre in 1962, Wes was named its director. Professor Graham was convinced that Waterloo students needed efficient access to computing technology (a principle which permeates the campus to this day). Upon discovering that computer software in the early 1960’s was not well suited for teaching purposes, he set out to find a solution.
The result was WATFOR (the Waterloo Fortran Compiler), developed in only three months by Wes with a team of four students (Gus German, Jim Mitchell, Richard Shirley and Bob Zarnke) and a junior faculty member (Peter Shantz). Almost overnight, WATFOR made UW's computers much easier to use. This breakthrough attracted worldwide attention from many other universities facing the same problems in teaching computer programming, and provided the foundation of UW’s international reputation for innovative software development.
Recognition that the FORTRAN language could be improved from an educational perspective lead to the implementation of WATFIV (Waterloo FORTRAN IV), and WATFIV-S to support structured programming. Many of these enhancements to the FORTRAN programming language were incorporated into the international FORTRAN language standard. Wes Graham and two of his colleagues realized that a textbook was needed to accompany this novel approach to teaching computer programming. This team wrote two texts, “FORTRAN IV with WATFOR” and “FORTRAN IV with WATFOR and WATFIV,” which quickly became the model for texts in introductory computer programming. To this day these two texts rank with the best selling texts in Computer Science, having sold almost a million copies. Business, industry and government quickly adopted WATFOR and WATFIV for their own purposes when they realized that the techniques used in teaching computer programming could lead to dramatic productivity improvements in software development and problem solving.
Many of the software systems subsequently developed at Waterloo were created under Professor Graham’s guidance. These included language compilers for C, COBOL, Pascal, Basic, APL, and local area networks such as Waterloo MicroNET and Waterloo JANET. His research in the early days of microcomputers also created early versions of such productivity tools as word processors, spreadsheets and database systems. The user-friendly software produced under his direction has been used in over 40 countries, and has influenced the teaching of countless thousands of students around the world.
Linking the Academic and Business World
By the late 70’s, the University of Waterloo was educating many talented students who were going on to advanced education, or entering Canadian business and government. Many of these students wanted to become entrepreneurs and start businesses in the exciting field of computing. Wes Graham recognized this phenomenon, and sought a solution in which the University and the students could jointly benefit. An early opportunity presented itself in 1981/82 when three of his former students started WATCOM to develop and market educational software.
Wes worked actively with these students and the University to establish a productive model for relationships between these “spin-off” companies and the University. The approach devised by Wes Graham has been applied many times since the early 80s to create many of the innovative companies that are now identified with the University of Waterloo. WATCOM has become a highly successful division of Sybase, one of the world’s largest software companies. Many other companies, which were based on this model, such as Waterloo Maple and Open Text, have also enjoyed substantial success.
The Trust will motivate research and development that supports innovative applications of technology in education. The University with the assistance of the Management Board will seek matching funds for this activity that may achieve two to four times the initial award.
The initiative to establish the Trust began with a number of Wes Graham’s former colleagues and students who wished to pay tribute to him in a very special way. This Trust is their way of continuing Wes Graham's efforts in strengthening the University of Waterloo's leadership position in information technology.
The Trust has already received advance pledges of $5 million and has a goal of $10 million. These funds are intended to create an endowment for projects related to information technology at the University of Waterloo with a specific focus on education. Information technology is still a very dynamic field and it is difficult to predict what the key issues will be even 5 years into the future. The Trust will typically make commitments for periods up to 5 years at a time, thus providing regular opportunities for a review and consideration of a change in focus/direction.
During its initial 5 years the Trust will support the J. W. Graham University Professorships and Chair in Information Technology in the University of Waterloo and the J.W. Graham Fellowships/Scholarships in Information Technology directed toward outstanding undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and teachers. Support may also be directed to research, bursaries, or other University needs as identified by the Management Board in the future.
The J. W. Graham University Professorships and Chair in Information Technology in the University of Waterloo will play a central role in furthering the University’s achievements in information technology and software development to support education.
One key focus of the Professorships and Chair will be the exploitation of new technologies to improve the teaching of information technology, not only at UW but also in the many Canadian high schools and elementary schools with which UW has developed strong and productive links. This relationship, which has stimulated interest and encouraged excellence among students for many years, began when Wes Graham initiated Computer Science Days, bringing hundreds of high school students to campus to experience the excitement of working with computers.
The appointment of the J.W. Graham University Professor will normally be for a period of 4 months (1 term) to two years. The Professorships will be used to recognize distinguished contributions to education from within the University; to bring distinguished educators to Waterloo for a short period; and to provide an opportunity for distinguished individuals from technology-based businesses, particularly those with an association with the UW, to teach and interact with students and academic staff at the University.
The appointment of the Chair would normally be for the period in which the occupant chooses to remain at the University of Waterloo. The individual might be selected from outside the University as a new professorial appointment, or could come from within UW. In either case, the Chair will be an internationally recognized figure in computing education and research. In the case of an internal appointment, the University would be able to appoint one or more new professors to fulfill many of the normal duties of the Chair holder, thus assisting in the important process of faculty renewal.
Identifying and selecting an outstanding candidate for the Chair may take some time. Thus, the Trust management group will focus initially on the University Professorships in order to create immediate impact. These Professorships will be one way in which the Trust can identify potential candidates for the Chair.
III: The J.W. Graham Fellowships/Scholarships in Information Technology
The J. W. Graham Information Technology Trust will operate with a Management Board of 7 to 9 individuals who will meet regularly. The Board will be chaired by the University President or his designate and will include appropriate members of the academic and business communities who have a vested interest in sustaining and growing the Trust. Board members will be chosen taking into consideration input from the donor group, and will serve for two-year terms. A Board Member may serve for repeated terms.
Ongoing responsibilities of the Management Board will include:
q setting direction and focus
q determining activities to be funded
q promoting and expanding the activities and value of the Trust; seeking leveraging opportunities
q reviewing and evaluating Trust activities and impact/effectiveness
q providing input and guiding principles concerning the selection of University Professors, Chairholders, Fellows, Scholarship recipients
q reviewing input from the wider donor group into the programs of the Trust
q succession planning for future composition of the Management Board
The University Professors, Chairholders, and Fellows will be selected in accordance with University policies. The selection of the J. W. Graham Scholarship recipients will be in keeping with the scholarship selection procedures of the particular Faculty and the Undergraduate Awards Office, taking into consideration input and guiding principles from the Management Board.
Reproduced here is a copy of the citation which was submitted when Wes Graham was nominated for the Order of Canada, since it captures so many of his achievements. Wes passed away on August 23, 1999, just three days after he was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada in a private ceremony at his home by Ontario Lt. Gov. Hilary Weston. He received the Order of Canada in recognition of his contributions to computer science in Canada and throughout the world. His boundless energy and talents had a significant impact on the lives of countless people.
Professor J. Wesley Graham provided the leadership in software development for education that has given Canada and the University of Waterloo an international reputation in this important field. The software produced under his direction has been used in over 40 countries, and has influenced the teaching of countless thousands of students.
Career - James Wesley Graham was born in Copper Cliff, Ontario on January 17th, 1932. He completed his primary and secondary education in this area. From 1950 to 1955 he attended the University of Toronto where he received a BA in Mathematics and Physics in 1954, and an MA in Mathematics in 1955. Wes Graham then joined IBM Canada to work in the emerging electronic computing industry. He worked primarily as a systems engineer on a number of projects involving large Canadian corporations.
In 1959, Wes Graham joined the University of Waterloo as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics with the intention of teaching Statistics. However, he soon was attracted to the notion, then prevalent at Waterloo, that computers were important, and every scientist and engineer should know how to use them. Professor Graham’s love of teaching placed him in a leadership role in computing education at the University.
Contributions to Computer-based Education - Wes Graham soon recognized that the software available on computers was not designed for teaching purposes. Typical language processors required a minimum of 30 seconds for each program, and an error produced an incomprehensible pile of paper commonly known as a “memory dump.” As students learn, they make mistakes. They need to make many attempts at a solution; thus, teaching large groups of students with the software just described would not work. Others recognized these difficult pedagogical problems, but Wes Graham did something about them.
In 1965, he worked with a team of four students and a junior faculty member to build a software system for the IBM 7040 computer that would solve both the speed and error problems. This software, called WATFOR (Waterloo Fortran Compiler), was completed in about 3 months of intense effort, and attracted worldwide attention from many other universities facing the same problems. The software certainly solved the problems at Waterloo, enabling the University to become the leading Canadian educational institution in teaching undergraduate students how to use computers.
With the advent of the IBM 360, re-design and re-implementation of the WATFOR software was necessary. WATFOR/360 was an instant hit, since the IBM 360 was becoming the machine of choice for many universities and colleges. The WATFOR/360 compiler had an incredible impact on the teaching of computer programming, and Wes Graham provided the leadership that gave Canada and the University of Waterloo an international reputation in this form of innovative software development.
Recognition that the FORTRAN language could be improved from an educational perspective lead to the implementation of WATFIV (Waterloo FORTRAN IV), and the introduction of structured programming lead to WATFIV-S. Many of these enhancements to the FORTRAN programming language were incorporated into the international FORTRAN language standard.
Wes Graham and two of his colleagues perceived that a textbook was needed to accompany this novel approach to teaching computer programming. This team wrote two texts, “FORTRAN IV with WATFOR” and “FORTRAN IV with WATFOR and WATFIV”, which quickly became the model for texts in introductory computer programming. To this day these two texts rank with the best selling texts in Computer Science, having sold in the neighbourhood of a million copies.
Realizing that the techniques used in teaching computer programming could make dramatic improvements in software development lead to the adoption of WATFOR and WATFIV by business, industry and government, as well as education. Waterloo’s reputation spread beyond the halls of academe, as WATFOR and its successors set an international standard for language software.
Wes Graham is a pioneer in the creation of software to support education, particularly in the area of programming and access to computers. Many of the software systems that further enhanced Waterloo’s international reputation were created under his leadership. These included language compilers for COBOL, Pascal, Basic, APL, and local area networks, such as Waterloo MicroNET and Waterloo JANET. His research in the early days of microcomputers created early versions of such productivity tools as word processors, spreadsheets and database systems.
Of course the University of Waterloo had to have the computer equipment to support the software development activities. In the early 60’s Wes Graham convinced the University administration to invest in an IBM 7040 computer. This computer was the initial springboard that was used to start Waterloo on the way to its worldwide reputation in software development. With the creation of the Faculty of Mathematics at Waterloo, Wes Graham again provided leadership by working to obtain the funds to support the acquisition of an IBM 360/75, at the time the largest computer installed in Canada.
Because of the widespread use of Waterloo software, Wes was able to attract funding from many of the major computer companies such as IBM, Digital Equipment and Hewlett Packard. These “gifts” to the University to support continued software development totaled over $35,000,000.
Wes Graham’s influence on computer-based education did not stop at the post-secondary level. He had substantial influence in the 70’s and 80’s on the growing discipline of computer studies in the secondary schools of Ontario. He was one of the architects of the first secondary school curriculum in computer studies. Based on his experience at the University of Waterloo, he also lead the development of much of the software that made it possible to teach computer science to large numbers of students in the secondary schools. To this end, he designed one of the first “portable” computers and its accompanying software. This affordable computer could be moved from room to room in a school, and allowed students to experiment extensively with computer programming, whereas in the past they often had to wait for days while their programs were sent to neighboring universities for testing.
Developing Waterloo Spin-off Companies - By the late 70’s, the University of Waterloo was educating many talented students who were going on to advanced education, or entering Canadian business and government. Many of these students wanted to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses in the exciting field of computing. Wes Graham recognized this phenomenon, and sought a solution in which the University and the students could jointly benefit. The first opportunity presented itself in 1981/82 when three of his former students started WATCOM to develop and market educational software.
Wes worked actively with these students and the University to establish a model for relationships between these “spin-off” companies and the University that would work to both parties’ mutual benefit. The approach devised by Wes Graham has been applied many times in the intervening decade and a half to create many of the companies that are now identified with the University of Waterloo. WATCOM has become one of the most successful divisions of Sybase, the world’s sixth largest software company, and many other companies such as Waterloo Maple and Open Text, which employed the model pioneered by Wes Graham, have enjoyed substantial success.
Other Honours - In recognition of his contributions to education in computer science and his many innovative contributions to the University of Waterloo, the University created the J.W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation. The medal is awarded each year at convocation to a graduate of the University of Waterloo that most closely exemplifies the qualities shown by Professor Graham during his career. Wes Graham has also received the Distinguished Teacher Award of the University of Waterloo.
Wes Graham has made many contributions to professional organizations. He was President of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) for two successive terms, and his work in this office gave CIPS the start it needed to be the true representative of the computing profession in Canada. In recognition of his contributions to CIPS, Wes Graham was made an Honorary Lifetime Member.
As President of the Canadian Water Ski Association, Wes pioneered the use of the computer in automating the process of scoring water ski tournaments. His approach was first used in 1979 at the World Water Ski Championships in Toronto. In recognition of his contributions to water skiing, Wes Graham received a Builder Award from Water Ski Canada.