Bruce Hillam, former chair of the Academic Senate and one of the founding members of the computer science department, died Dec. 26. He was 65.
Hillam, who received his emeritus award in 2003, joined the mathematics department at Cal Poly Pomona in 1973 after receiving his doctorate in math from UC Riverside. During the late 70s, he was one of the first professors to teach computer science courses. Computer science officially formed a department a few years later in 1981, and Hillam served as chair from 1982 to 1992.
“He was one of the faculty in the math department who knew programming in the late 60s and early 70s. People who did programming were either electrical engineers or mathematicians,” says Craig Rich, computer science professor and chair. “He’s a mentor to almost all of the current faculty [in the computer science department]. Every department chair since was hired by him.”
Hillam chaired the Academic Senate from 1993 to 1995, and he retired from teaching in 2008.
Hillam, who became a quadriplegic from a diving accident at 16, was a strong proponent of accessibility.
“He insisted that everything should be ADA compliant, and he was always talking to administrators to make sure it happened,” says Mandayam Srinivas, interim dean of the College of Science and computer science professor.
Before dictation software existed, typing was a laborious process for Hillam. “He had to actually lift and drop his hand on the keyboard and then somehow he got the letters to work,” Srinivas says. “He wrote an entire book – a textbook for introductory computer science that we used – in that way.
“He’s an amazing role model. When people say that something is too hard or there are too many constraints, you think about him. He never let those issues get in the way.”
Hillam is survived by his wife, Wai-Wah.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 4745 Wheeler Ave., La Verne. Information about an on-campus memorial will be posted on PolyCentric when it becomes available.