Milestones

A computer scientist loved for his teaching

Stanley Eisenstat taught at Yale for nearly 50 years.

Courtesy Dana Angluin

Courtesy Dana Angluin

Professor Stanley Eisenstat taught in the computer science department for nearly 50 years. View full image

Before he died on December 17, 76-year-old computer science professor Stanley Eisenstat, who had been suffering from a pulmonary embolism, asked that his students not be notified of his death until the fall term ended. He was concerned that the news might affect them during the stressful exam period. Remarkable as this was, friends and colleagues say it was in keeping with the care and concern for his students—and extraordinary dedication to teaching—that Eisenstat had demonstrated for nearly a half century since joining the Yale faculty in 1971.

Eisenstat’s research interests included parallel computing, numerical linear and non-linear algebra, and sparse linear systems. He was best known to undergraduates, however, for developing and teaching a core sequence in the computer science curriculum: CPSC 223, Data Structures and Programming Techniques; and CPSC 323, Introduction to Systems Programming and Computer Organization. Former student Daniel Urke ’21 succinctly summarizes the prevailing view of these courses among undergraduates: “While his course is infamously difficult, he helped each student with the utmost patience and care.”  

A web page (https://ccxxgao.github.io) where students and colleagues have shared memories of Eisenstat abounds with examples of this unwavering support. Several generations of students recall prompt responses to desperate late-night emails, regular meetings to go over difficult concepts one-on-one, and compassionate advice on the choice of a major or a career. Although Eisenstat taught the same courses for decades, he was constantly adapting the syllabus based on the feedback of his students.   

Eisenstat’s love of knowledge extended far beyond computer science. His close friend and fellow Yale professor Avi Silberschatz recalls discussing everything from history to physics to US politics over their daily shared lunch. “He was a walking encyclopedia for Yale, the computer science department, and its history,” says Silberschatz. “He was a superb teacher. He was a man for all seasons.”

Eisenstat is survived by his wife, Dana Angluin, also a professor of computer science at Yale, and his two children, David and Sarah Eisenstat.  

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