Ken Kennedy had a well-earned reputation for leadership. In 1997, he was chosen co-chair of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). The panel’s 1999 report, which recommended that U.S. leaders increase spending for computing research by more than $1 billion, was a catalyst for increasing support from numerous federal agencies for research on information technologies (IT). For this accomplishment, the Computing Research Association awarded Ken and a colleague, Bill Joy, its Distinguished Service Award.
In 1988, Ken led a group of computer scientists from seven leading research institutions in putting together a proposal for the establishment of a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), one of the first NSF science and technology centers. CRPC later evolved into HiPerSoft, which Ken directed from its inception. HiPerSoft was the administrative home at Rice of several multi-institutional projects, including the Virtual Grid Application Development Software Project, an NSF-sponsored collaboration involving seven universities, and the Los Alamos Computer Science Institute, a consortium of five universities and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Remembered at Rice for his love of students and of teaching, Ken was a Ph.D. adviser to 38 students and a mentor to many more. He continued to teach undergraduate courses long after he became prominent in his field. In 2002, he was promoted to the highest academic rank at Rice, University Professor. At the time of his death, he held joint appointments in computer science and in electrical and computer engineering.
In 2003, the Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Programming Languages (ACM SIGPLAN) published a volume containing the 50 most influential papers published in the ACM Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation between 1979 and 1999. Few researchers had more than one paper in that collection. Ken had five, and three of his former students had two or more.