Thomas Murtagh

Do you ever take a shortcut? Why would you, when the long way around is so much more interesting.

You’re famous for the narrative arc of your courses. In a single semester you’ll guide students from “this is what a bit is” up through developing their own networked gaming app. Braiding together programming skills, fundamental principles and elements of math and probability, your classes and textbooks transcend technical learning to model computer science as a true science. Despite not being a network specialist, you even brought the internet to Williams!

Your visual metaphors can be daunting for colleagues to decode: What in the world does a slide with a picture of an onion mean? But the results are awe-inspiring. One alumnus fondly recalls “almost daily epiphanies.” Others describe your courses as life- and career-changing. You’ve changed your own research agenda many times, too, pursuing, even late in your career, new and challenging projects, including optimizing the performance of the new generation of solid state storage devices.

And your dinner parties are just as discursive as your lectures and labs: Arriving guests are often told by your wife, Fern, that “he just left to get the ingredients.” Yet the meals and conversations always end up being memorable. Your famous margarita recipe might have something to do with that, as well.

You’re known as a devoted father and grandfather: When one of the daughters calls, everything else stops. You’re known as the father of your department, too: someone who can hear out everyone’s point of view and gently bring people together. Or, sometimes, bring them to their senses. Your mentoring skills are legendary. As is your ability to forget your mug of tea just about anywhere.

Yes, even your tea mug takes the long road. Fortunately, it always eventually makes its way back to you. Taking the long way back to yet another fascinating conversation.

I hereby affirm you as John B. McCoy and John T. McCoy Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors and privileges appertaining thereto.

July 23, 2022