Skip to main content

Remembering Paul Young (1936 – 2019)

Former chairs (left to right) Jerre Noe, Paul Young, Jean-Loup Baer, Ed Lazowska

The Allen School community was sad to learn recently that former chair and professor emeritus Paul Young passed away in December. Young was a gifted computer scientist who spent five years as chair of what was then known as the University of Washington Department of Computer Science. During his tenure, Young advanced UW’s reputation as a national leader in computer science education and research, advocated for more resources to bring the best and brightest faculty to Seattle, and initiated conversations around the creation of a permanent, purpose-built home for the program. 

Young, who earned his Ph.D. from MIT following undergraduate studies at Antioch College, joined the UW faculty in 1983 from Purdue University along with his colleague Larry Snyder. The dual recruitment was a major coup for UW, with Young assuming leadership of the CS department at a time of rapidly increasing demand for the major, and Snyder taking the reins of the UW/Northwest VLSI Consortium focused on advancing our leadership in very large-scale integrated circuit design.

Young was a talented educator and researcher with interests that spanned theoretical computer science, including computational complexity, algorithmic theory, formal language theory, and connections with mathematical logic. His leadership and professional activities on and off campus helped to raise the profile of UW Computer Science. After his five years as chair came to a close, Young remained on the UW faculty for another decade, serving for three of those years as Associate Dean of Research, Facilities & External Affairs in the College of Engineering. 

Paul Young (right) with Punkin the “pocket rocket”

In 1994, Young took a leave of absence from the university to serve as Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation for its Directorate for Computing and Information Science and Engineering (NSF CISE). He also was active in the Computing Research Association (CRA) and served on the organization’s board from 1983 to 1991 — the last three years as board chair. Under his leadership, the computing research community ramped up its involvement in science and technology policy. CRA recognized his contributions with its Distinguished Service Award in 1996.

Following his retirement from the UW in 1998, Young joined his wife, Deborah Joseph, in Wisconsin, where she was a member of the computer science faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. They settled into Lime Creek Farm in the southwest corner of the state, where they restored more than 40 acres of prairie habitat and renovated a 100-year-old farm house. Lime Creek also served as a breeding and training ground for the couple’s performance Labrador Retrievers. These included Punkin — the runt of the farm’s first litter of puppies — who earned the nickname “Paul’s Pocket Rocket” due to her combination of intense speed and drive coupled with her diminutive size. Under Young’s tutelage, Punkin earned titles in retrieving, pointing, tracking, obedience, and agility, and she held the distinction of being Wisconsin’s first Grand Master Pointing Retriever.

We will remember Paul for his many contributions to our program and to our field, and we send our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

March 5, 2020