May 1943 – May 2014
Those who come first have a responsibility to those who will follow. Dr. Clarence Ellis cleared such a path.
As a teenage security guard in Chicago, Ellis read the manuals for the computers he wasn't allowed to use. His theoretical knowledge proved practical in a variety of corporate emergencies, beginning his career in computer science.
After earning a degree in math and physics from Beloit College, he dropped out of MIT graduate school to pursue civil rights activism, which found him in the audience of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Ellis eventually became the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in computer science in 1969. He later returned to MIT to work on the ARPANET, after which he moved to Xerox PARC and Stanford University and then MCC, advancing the development of graphical user interfaces, object-oriented programming, groupware, collaboration software and workflow systems.
He eventually settled down as a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he developed a Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training (SMART) program for internships in computer science, ensuring others would have access to the field. He was 71.