Penny Crane Award 2008

2008 Penny Crane Award Recipient – Jerry Smith

Jerry SmithJerry Smith first became involved with computers while working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the 1950’s. The computers in question were analog, and programming them meant building electronic circuits with real components such as resistors, capacitors and rheostats. While they were fine for modeling and simulation, they were not so great for computation.

He earned a B.S. in Mathematics at the University of Dayton in 1960. While an undergraduate, Jerry was employed at the UD Research Institute, where he first learned to program on one of the earliest digital computers, a Burroughs 205. He went on to graduate studies in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. He returned to UD briefly to join the Mathematics faculty, but the weather soon drove him back to the west coast. He took a position as a research statistician in the Berkeley Statistical Laboratory just as digital computers began to transform the practice of statistical analysis. After several years, he was encouraged to join the Computer Center programming staff in order to develop statistical programs for the larger campus community.

As he moved up in management at the Computer Center, Jerry came to realize that he would need more than programming skills to do his job. This led him to attend his first SIGUCCS conference in 1972. He first met Penny Crane at that conference, and she persuaded him to co-chair the following year’s conference with her. Neither of them had any experience with conference planning, but they had a great committee and a very patient Board and the conference was a success. Jerry has remained involved with SIGUCCS ever since, serving on conference committees, as a Board member and as Chair of the Awards Selection Committee for its first six years.

He retired from his position as User Services Director at Berkeley in 2007, after 43 years with UCB and 35 years with SIGUCCS. He values his work with SIGUCCS as one of the most gratifying parts of his career. Membership in SIGUCCS provided him with unequaled opportunities for professional development and for making life-long friends. Jerry’s nomination for the Penny Crane award detailed how he worked with his staff:
not one to be a ‘star’, Jerry often led from the background by allowing others to shine while he offered sound advice and guidance. He encouraged his staff and always brought several to the SIGUCCS conferences so they could meet and network with their peers at other universities. He encouraged his staff to participate in SIGUCCS activities and committees. His staff won several SIGUCCS Communication Awards.

Jerry believes in the team approach to solving problems and getting things done. He was a member of UC Berkeley BIK (Berkeley Internet Kit) team which received the CAUSE 1996 -Best Practices in Service- award.

‘Mentor of the Moment’ is what we called Penny Crane. Jerry carries on her tradition of mentoring and service.