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The University’s Medal for Distinguished Achievement: William A. Wulf, National Academy of Engineering

The University of Pennsylvania Medal for Distinguished Achievement was conferred on Dr. William A. Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering, at the Convocation of the School of Engineering’s Sesquicentennial. President Judith Rodin conferred the Penn Medal at SEAS’s celebration at Irvine Auditorium on September 25. Dr. Wulf delivered the Convocation Address.

Dr. Wulf is the twelfth recipient of Penn’s Medal, see below for the prior recipients.

The citation accompanying the University of Pennsylvania Medal for Distinguished Achievement conferred on September 25 to William A. Wulf reads:

From the moment you began solving your first problems as a draftsman at the Teletype Corporation during your undergraduate years, you have pushed the envelope of engineering education and practice. Described by your peers as a "pioneer," "a Renaissance Man" and "one of the premier computer scientists in the whole world," you have enjoyed a distinguished and highly decorated career in teaching, research, business, and public service.

After earning an undergraduate degree in engineering physics and a master’s in electrical engineering, you received the first computer science doctorate ever awarded at the University of Virginia in 1968.

You have never looked back. Joining the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University the following year, you began an academic career that would take you to a full professorship at CMU by 1975, an endowed chair at the University of Virginia, which later awarded you the highest faculty appointment of University Professor.

Your research, which bridges programming systems and computer architecture, has had a major impact on engineering education and application. Among your many designing achievements are systems-implementation languages, a highly successful minicomputer, the C.mmp multiprocessor, the WM pipelined processor, and Hydra, one of the first operating systems to explore capability-based protection.

You also have known both the thrill of starting your own successful company and the agony of meeting payrolls. In 1981, you founded Tartan Laboratories, a company that developed computer programs to translate high-level computer languages into highly efficient computer codes.

While you have achieved almost mythic stature among your peers, you have performed valuable public service by serving as an ambassador for the engineering profession, as well as a leading conscience for engineering education. As the assistant director of the National Science Foundation during the late 1980s, and, since 1996, as president of the National Academy of Engineering, you have educated policymakers and the broader public on the role that engineering plays in our lives.

As important, you have pushed the education establishment to reinvigorate engineering curricula to keep pace with rapid changes in the profession and with the growing needs of a diverse global society.

In recognition of your groundbreaking accomplishments in computer science and your inspired leadership in engineering education, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania are proud to present you the University’s Medal for Distinguished Achievement.

The Trustees inaugurated the tradition of presenting the Medal to those who reflect "the highest ideals of the University," and modeled the pewter medal on the silver one worn by Penn Presidents for ceremonial occasions.


The silver medal was a gift of the late trustee and alumnus Thomas S. Gates, Jr., (A.B. 1928, LL.D. 1956). One face is engraved with the University seal (top), the other with the "orrery seal" (right) designed in 1782 by the 1757 alumnus Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Penn’s medal has been given on only eight previous occasions: the first to then Attorney General Janet Reno at the October 25, 1993, dedication of the Law School’s Nicole E. Tannenbaum Hall; then a week later, to three distinguished chemical engineers–Neal Amundson, Stuart W. Churchill, and Arthur E. Humphrey–to mark the centennial of chemical engineering at Penn; to the American Philosophical Society in celebration of its 250th anniversary in 1994; to the Hon. Walter H. Annenberg and the Hon. Leonore Annenberg at a dinner that year marking the end of the Campaign for Penn; to then Vice President Al Gore, Jr., when he came to Penn in 1996 to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration of ENIAC; to mathematicians–Freeman J. Dyson and Cathleen Synge Morawetz in October of 1999 at the Mathematics Department Centennial celebration; and in November of 2000 to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as the Law School celebrated it’s Sesquicentennial.

  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 6, October 1, 2002


October 1, 2002
Volume 49 Number 6

A new Center for Africana Studies look to the past, and the future.
Dr. Daniel Janzen, a pioneer in tropical biology, has been awarded the Einstein World Award for Science.
An endowed chair for Dr. Virginia Reef in Veterinary Medicine and for Dr. Michael Eric Dyson in SAS.
The first University Council meeting of the academic year will be held tomorrow and three year-end committee reports are scheduled for discussion.
Penn tops the list for Service Learning in the latest U.S. News rankings.
Speaking Out on a problematic parking predicament plaguing permit holders, and on the steady stream of Facilities postcards.
The University Medal for Distinguished Achievement is conferred at the SEAS Sesquicentennial Convocation
A new Involuntary Leave of Absence policy concerning students is now in effect.
The Government Affairs Update addresses the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace; the FY 03 Commonwealth Appropriation and the local student-orientated initiatives.
Of Record: Design Guidelines and Review of Campus Projects.
Now is the time to register a PennKey and password in the new authentication system; those who register before midnight on October 9 could win a prize.