As part of its recent 40th anniversary celebration, the computer science department of Virginia Tech, part of the College of Engineering, honored Greg Lavender as its 2010 Distinguished Alumnus, and presented Nora and Dean Kirstein with its Distinguished Service Award.

Lavender, who earned a master’s degree in 1988 and a Ph.D. in 1993 from the department, was honored for his significant contributions to both industry and academia. After graduation, he worked as chief scientist for Internet server software start-up companies.

From 2000 to 2004, he worked for Sun Microsystems, leading the development of Sun’s Internet Directory Service product, creating one of the most successful distributed products in the company’s history. He also helped develop the OpenSolaris and the Solaris11 operating system at Sun Microsystems before moving to Oracle, where he served as vice-president of engineering for the Solaris core operating system. 

During this time, Lavender also served as an adjunct faculty member at University of Texas at Austin’s computer science department. From 2004 to 2007, he served as associate chairman for academics, boasting a department ranked as a Top 10 contender in the nation by “U.S. News & World Report.”

Based in California’s Silicon Valley, Lavender now works at Cisco Systems Inc.’s Network Software and Systems Technology Group as vice-president of foundation engineering. He is charged with spearheading a next-generation Internetwork Operating System for the computer networking company’s routers and switches.

As part of the mid-November 40th anniversary event weekend, Lavender gave a talk on the state of computer science, reaching back to the first use of the abacus and the creation of algorithms to what the future holds in cloud computing and broadband width.

Nora and Dean Kirstein were honored for their generous support of the computer science department. Both are two-time graduates of the computer science, Nora earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1979 and 1986 respectively, and Dean earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1978 and 1985, respectively. Their Hokie love has kept the two close to campus, with Nora working as an application analyst and Dean employed as a senior technical lead, both for the university.

The Kirsteins were largely responsible for the creation of the Anne and George Gorsline Scholarship, endowed in memory of George Gorsline and to later honor his wife, Anne. Gorsline served as the first head of the computer science from 1967, the initial pre-launch of the department, to 1973. The department did not approve undergraduate degrees until 1970, hence the mark as 1970 as the department’s true start. Gorsline died in 1987.

Nora and Dean have worked tirelessly to solicit contributions from fellow computer science alumni in support of this endowment, which funds several student scholarships annually, according to Barbara Ryder, current head of the department and the J. Byron Maupin chaired professor of computer science.