Vinton G. Cerf, ACM President 2012 - 14
As ACM celebrates its 75th anniversary, we invited ACM’s former presidents to reflect on their terms in a brief Q&A. In revisiting some of the milestone moments from ACM’s history, we hope for insight into the ever-changing landscape of computing to guide us forward in the next 75 years.
Vint Cerf served as ACM President from 2012 - 2014.
What motivated you to run for ACM president?
At the recommendation of my professors, I joined ACM in 1967 as I became a graduate student in computer science at UCLA. I chaired the Los Angeles SIGART group in 196, but I was largely a passive member until 1992 when I was asked to complete the term of a Council member who had left before term expiration. I agreed to do this if ACM would support the creation of a Fellows program, which it agreed to do. I am happy to say that there was a lot of support for the program, especially from Anita Borg, and it was put into operation. Some years later, John White, then the CEO of ACM, twisted my arm to run for President. I felt that I had not given enough time to ACM as a member, agreed to the proposa,l and was elected. This would be a four-year commitment, including two years as Past President. I was elected in 2012 and continued on Council until 2016.
What are some of the most memorable moments from your term?
Working with the ACM leadership and their enthusiasm for the new European, Indian, and Chinese Councils, and with all the international travel required, gave me new appreciation for the role of computing in the broader community. The Heidelberg Laureate Forum was a major milestone for ACM and partial credit for its creation goes to John White, Pat Ryan and others who worked with the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the International Mathematical Union and the Abel Prize committee. The 2012 Turing Centenary brought 37 of the Turing Award recipients together for the first time in a celebration of Turing and his work.
What were your most significant accomplishments as ACM president?
I really cannot claim any personal accomplishments - see memorable moments.
How would you like your term to be remembered?
It was a period of significant international outreach by ACM and I was an enthusiastic supporter.
In hindsight, is there anything that you would do differently?
I think I might have tried to think through the side effects of creating national and regional Councils more carefully. These are pretty heavyweight mechanisms with their own overhead in addition to the ACM Council.
What are some of the moments from ACM’s history that you think we should highlight during ACM’s 75th anniversary?
The Turing Centenary, awards to women in computer science, efforts to expand diversity in ACM membership, and international outreach.
Do you have any interesting ACM memorabilia in your collection?
Well, the Turing Award silver bowl.
During ACM’s 75th anniversary, we promote the accomplishments of ACM’s former presidents. To better understand how they served the organization, we invited each of ACM’s living former presidents to participate in a brief Q&A. Through the Q&As, we also learn about important milestones during ACM’s history.
ACM organized a special one-day conference to celebrate its 75th anniversary. This event was truly a memorable day of panels featuring world-leading scholars and practitioners on topics central to the future of computing. Panelists imagined what might be next for technology and society. ACM’s 75th Anniversary Celebration took place at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on June 10. View the livestream on demand. Visit the event webpage for more details, including the program.