In the late 1960's, Dr. Harold J. Perkins, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Mathematics at that time, was approached by concerned members of the faculty, led by Dr. George F. Sheats of the Department of Chemistry and Dr. Paul P. Szydlik of the Department of Physics and Earth Science, with a recommendation that instruction in digital electronic computation (i.e., computer science) be offered at Plattsburgh. Their rationale was that the offering of such instruction was needed not only as a complement to the existing programs in chemistry and physics, but also, and more importantly, to maintain the currency of the overall academic programs of the college. Dr. Perkins was convinced by these arguments.
There was also interest elsewhere on campus, from the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Mathematics in the Faculty of Science and Mathematics, from the Department of Business and Economics in the Faculty of Social Sciences, and from the Department of Education in the Faculty of Professional Studies. A decision was made not to offer computer science instruction through the Department of Mathematics. It was for this reason that Dr. Perkins found it necessary to create an independent Department of Computer Science. He invited the original petitioners, all of whom were full-time faculty members and many of whom were tenured, to serve as part-time members of the new department as a part of their overall commitment to the college, with Dr. Sheats (a former chair of the Department of Chemistry) as the chair. This happened during the 1969-1970 academic year.
The first instruction offered by the new Department of Computer Science occurred in the spring of 1970. It was course CSC350 (FORTRAN Programming) offered in a lecture-recitation format. The lecturer was a part-time visiting instructor from Montreal, with two recitation sections being handled by Drs. Sheats and Szydlik. Whether or not there was actual computer support at that time, using the small IBM 1440 computer operated by the college administration, is unknown to this writer.
During the spring and summer of 1970, this writer (a mathematician by training and a computational scientist with the General Electric Company) and Dr. Meyer Katzper (a physicist and computational scientist with industry) were recruited to serve as full-time members of the new Department of Computer Science with responsibilities for the total instructional program. Instruction was offered "in-house" in the fall of 1970, in both CSC350 (two lecture sections, both with additional recitation sections) and CSC470 (Numerical Methods), with computer support on the IBM 1440. The faculty members from other departments, originally appointed to the department on a part-time basis by Dr. Perkins (including Dr. Sheats as chair), continued to serve in those capacities, thereby making it possible for the internal administrative responsibilities usually associated with independent academic departments to take place. Dr. Katzper returned to private industry in 1973. Dr. Sheats remained as chair through the 1973-1974 academic year, at which time the chair was assumed by this writer.
It is this writer's recollection that computer science was first approved as a major during the 1973-1974 academic year, with the first majors who already accumulated a number of computer science courses, graduating in 1974. Over the last 40 years the department has prepared thousands of students for careers in computer science and information technology.
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