Computer Science Prof Lands Prestigious Award

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The world’s largest professional association for computer scientists has named Joel Adams as one of its six 2012 Distinguished Educators.

Adams is the computer science department chair at Calvin College, the Grand Rapids, Mich.,-based liberal arts school owned by the Christian Reformed Church.

The honor comes from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a professional organization with chapters in more than 50 countries.

Joel Adams

Adams, who has been teaching at the college for 24 years, said, “[Receiving the award] is a great honor. With computing devices so pervasive in today’s world, a person who can develop software can affect multitudes and change the world. Teaching at Calvin has allowed me to impart this knowledge to many bright young people, allowing them to go out and make a difference.”

Adams said he was pleased to receive the award on behalf of the college. “The other five people who received this award are from excellent schools—Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, and so on—so it is great to see a Christian college like Calvin listed alongside those schools.”

A member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., Adams had a key role in the U.S. Congress establishing National Computer Science Education Week in 2009. He has been the chief architect of four supercomputers, three of them at Calvin College. A two-time Fulbright scholar, he has taught computer science to university students in Mauritius and Iceland. He has written texts both to simplify computing for first-year students and to introduce high-level teaching concepts to computer science educators.

One concern Adams has is that Calvin is below the national average for women pursuing a career in computers. “I would love to see that change and for Calvin to become known as a place where women are equally represented in computing.”

Adams has become “an internationally-known expert on computer science education,” said colleague Keith Vander Linden.

Stan Haan, academic dean at the college, said he is “delighted” that great educators like Adams choose to teach at Calvin because of their commitment to higher Christian education. “When I think of Joel, I don’t think first of his scholarly abilities—significant as they are—but his friendly disposition and good heart.”

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.