David R. Smith

It is with great sadness that the Department of Computer Science reports the loss of Dr. David R. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science. David, an active member and founder of the department, passed away August 29, 2015.

Smith received his Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin, Madison. He came to Stony Brook in 1966 and (with D. Tycko) established the computer science department in 1970. While at Stony Brook he published in the areas of combinational switching functions, shift register sequences, experimental parallel computer & chip architectures, hardware description languages, and hardware synthesis. During his tenure at SBU, he was interested in VLSI design tools. He was thought to be a guiding hand for students and faculty alike. Upon retiring, Smith set up a devoted to his fellow emeritus.

Please use this page to record your fond memories of Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, Dave Smith. 


It is with great sadness that I inform you that David (Dave) Smith, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, died this afternoon in West Meadow Beach at Stony Brook, his favorite beach. He will be sorely missed by the department and the entire Stony Brook community. Our condolences to the family. May his Memory be an Inspiration to all of Us.

I had some fairly elaborate interactions with him when I started out at Stony Brook. I even considered renting a small house that was on his property. I believe he ran marathons or at least shorter runs in his later years. There were some pictures posted at the door at one point. In http://www.cs.stonybrook.edu/people/faculty/DavidSmith I read that he was one of two founders of the CS department in 1970. Sad that he is no longer with us. May he rest in peace.

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When I joined the department, Dave just retired and I was told I’d be getting his old office on the 1st floor (old CS building). When I visited that office, I was told that I’d get all new furniture and the old stuff will be thrown out. But I refused. I insisted on keeping Dave’s old and very solid desk: it had so much history to it. I took that desk with me when I moved to the office on the 2nd floor of old CS. For over fifteen years, I came to work every day, feeling honored to have a piece of history in my office from an original department founder. It gave me the extra motivation to work hard, to try and continue his legacy. When moving to the new CS building, one thing that saddened me was that I couldn’t take that old desk with me; it felt a bit like losing an old friend … and now, his very distinguished owner too. Dave continued to be involved after retiring. He came to many DLS talks and I also saw him and his wife in many events in Staller.

When we were graduate students at Madison, WI in the 1950s and 60s, Dave was known for his Cockney accent, his red hair and his homemade beer which was branded as “Old Undershirt” (the covering for the brew until it was bottled). Somehow or other, he had managed to live through the London Blitz and a slew of biking and running injuries in England and then similar injuries later in the U.S. Our last contact was an email from him four days before his death; Dave was commenting on a book by Adam Hochschield, To End All Wars, which describes the insanity of World War I and how luck determined who survived: “So had my father been a few months older, or if the war had gone on a few months more, - in all probability I would not have existed.” And by all accounts given his working-class background, Dave was an exception to the rigid class system in England by going on to academic success. Through it all, he aligned himself with working people and was unfailingly optimistic politically.

I was very sad to see this. David was always a gentleman and was very good to me during my time as a graduate student at SUNYSB. Some years ago I was beyond excited to run into him in the dining room at a lodge at Mt. Rainier National Park. At that point we had both left Stony Brook, and we had a wonderful time reminiscing about old friends and colleagues.

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