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UW CSE welcomes new graduate students at the “Pit Party”

IMG_1861This evening, UW CSE faculty, staff, and graduate students welcomed the incoming class of graduate students at our annual “Pit Party” potluck dinner, held this year at the Burke Museum on the UW campus.

The name “Pit Party” is … a bit obscure. Of our currently active faculty, only Richard Ladner ever spent time in the actual “pit.”

In the 1960’s, CSE (then called “the Computer Science Group”) was partially housed in the basement of Roberts Hall – once the home of UW’s College of Mines.  You guessed it – there was a facsimile mine in the basement, where our annual welcoming party was held!

Here’s a 1970 letter from CSE professor Jean-Loup Baer to the Dean of the Graduate School describing housing conditions for junior faculty. Makes Sieg Hall look like heaven!

A bit more history:

A School of Mining Engineering was established at UW in 1898. Milnor Roberts, after whom Roberts Hall is named, became Dean in 1901.  The School began its life in Denny Hall, then moved to Parrington Hall (at that time called Science Hall), and in 1910 moved to a brick powerhouse which had been constructed for 1909’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (held on the UW campus), which was re-named Mines Hall. The School was re-named the College of Mines, and moved to the new Mines Laboratory (the south half of the current Roberts Hall) in 1921. In 1947, reflecting decreased interest in mining engineering, the College was re-named the School of Mineral Engineering and given departmental status in UW’s College of Engineering. In 1968, reflecting decreased interest in mineral engineering and increased prominence of ceramic engineering, the School became the Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Ceramic Engineering, and in 1983 it became the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

A working model of the Cripple Creek Gold Mine in Colorado was constructed as an exhibit for 1909’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. It later went to the World’s Fair in Belgium, and then to the basement of Roberts Hall – the pit! It ultimately was donated to Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.

The Department of Computer Science & Engineering was established as an inter-college graduate program – the Computer Science Group – in 1967, and was housed in Roberts Hall. Jerre Noe was hired from SRI as CSE’s first chair in 1968; was succeeded by Hellmut Golde (1976), Bob Ritchie (1977), Paul Young (1983), Jean-Loup Baer (1988), Ed Lazowska (1993), David Notkin (2001), and Hank Levy (2006). In 1975 an undergraduate program in Computer Science was added, departmental status was conferred within the College of Arts & Sciences, and Sieg Hall became our home. A second undergraduate program, in Computer Engineering, was added in 1989 when the department moved to the College of Engineering and was re-named the Department of Computer Science & Engineering. The Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering was dedicated in 2003.

The University of Washington was established as the Territorial University of Washington in 1861, only 10 years after Seattle was settled and 18 years before Washington became a state. UW’s founder and first president, Asa Shinn Mercer, blazed the trail for a proud record of UW entrepreneurship and public service: he left his post after only two years, heading east to Massachusetts in 1863 and again in 1865 to recruit more than 100 young women – “The Mercer Girls” – to move to Seattle, funded by donations from eager men. In recognition of this contribution to civic life, he was elected to the Territorial Legislature. (Former UW President Bill Gerberding often remarked on the fact that one of his predecessors quit to run a brothel …)