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On June 15, the University of Toronto awarded alumnus and computing pioneer Alfred Aho (EngPhys 6T3) a Doctor of Science, honoris causa. Aho’s incredible accomplishments were recognized in U of T Engineering’s morning convocation ceremony.

Alfred Aho is a world-renowned computer scientist whose pattern-matching algorithms are run daily on computers around the world, and whose books on algorithms and compilers have been used as standard texts in virtually every computer science department. He is currently appointed the Lawrence Gussman Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University.

Aho attended North Toronto Collegiate Institute. An alumnus of the University of Toronto, Aho earned a BASc in Engineering Physics (now Engineering Science) in 1963. In his senior year, he was president of the Engineering Physics Club and earned his athletic letter as captain of the Engineering School squash team. After U of T, he attended Princeton University where in 1967 he received his PhD in electrical engineering/ computer science.

After Princeton, Aho joined the Computing Sciences Research Center at Bell Labs, the lab that created the Unix operating system and the C and C++ programming languages. He served as a member of technical staff, department head and director of this lab. In 1995 he joined the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University as chair of the department.

Aho is well known for his many papers and books on algorithms and data structures, programming languages, compilers and the foundations of computer science. He is the “A” in AWK, a widely used text-processing language, and he wrote the first versions of the popular Unix pattern-matching utilities egrep and fgrep. His current research interests include programming languages, compilers, algorithms and quantum computation.

Professor Aho has served as chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Section of the National Academy of Engineering, of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory, and of the Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate.

Among his many accolades, Alfred Aho has won the IEEE John von Neumann Medal and has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ACM, Bell Labs and IEEE. He received the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates and has honorary doctorates from the Universities of Waterloo and Helsinki.

Read about 16 exceptional engineering students graduating this year in our “Grads to Watch” feature.

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