Conrad “Connie” Wogrin, 92, of Amherst, professor emeritus of computer science and a driving force in establishing computer science at UMass Amherst, died March 8.
Born in Denver, Colo., in 1924, he received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from Yale University.
During World War II, he served in the Army in Europe as the non-commissioned officer in charge of communication systems at Supreme Headquarters. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service for supervision of signal installations improvised from captured enemy equipment.
After serving as professor of electrical engineering at Yale, he moved to UMass Amherst in 1967 as a professor of computer science and from 1970-88 was director of the Research Computer Center. He was one the first seven faculty hired in computer science and was instrumental to the growth of the program at the university. Along with the general responsibility of the University Computing Center, now UMass Amherst Information Technology, his research interests were in image processing, computer-based education and computer-aided design.
He was a pioneer in advocating that computers should impact every area of research in the university and that computing facilities should be available free to every member of the university community.
“Connie Wogrin was one of the major figures involved in establishing, nurturing and growing computer science at UMass Amherst,” said Bruce Croft, distinguished professor and dean of the College of Information and Computer Sciences. “In my first years here, Connie was running the rapidly developing University Computing Center but was also involved in all the main discussions and decisions in the computer science department as we developed into a nationally recognized program.”
As director of the Research Computer Center he was instrumental in supporting the research on visualization of massive data sets and the use of supercomputers. The work he supported on interpretation of the data from weather satellites was published in an atlas by the National Geographic Society and used by the Smithsonian Institution’s “World from Space” exhibit.
He was the acting chair of the computer science program from 1969-70. With his help, the program was upgraded in 1972 to the department of computer and information science (COINS) offering master’s and doctoral degrees.
After more than a decade of phenomenal growth of the department, he once again took the helm as acting chair in 1985. Prior to his retirement in 1992, he continued his research interests in intelligent tutors and computational strategies in learning and education. He also served as the acting associate vice chancellor for research and graduate studies for the university from 1990 to 1992.
In 2015, Wogrin’s family established the Conrad Wogrin Undergraduate Scholarship in Computer Science in honor of his contributions to building the university’s computer science program. The scholarship provides support to undergraduate students who show particular promise and demonstrate financial need, with preference to students who are members of groups underrepresented in computer science.
Wogrin also served as a member of Amherst Planning Board and was Treasurer of Friends of the Jones Library.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years Barbara; his three daughters, Sandy Warren and husband Bob of Delray Beach, Fla, Carol Wogrin of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Nancy Confrey and husband Tony of Concord; his sister Frances Rochford; brother Robert Wogrin; and brother-in-law Carl Yohans.
A memorial service will be held Friday, March 17 at 2 p.m. at Grace Church in Amherst.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Conrad Wogrin Undergraduate Scholarship in Computer Science (check payable to University of Massachusetts Amherst (memo line – Conrad Wogrin Scholarship) and mailed to: UMass Amherst Records and Gift Processing, 134 Hicks Way, Memorial Hall, UMass, Amherst 01003 or online at cics.umass.edu/support); or to the Hospice of the Fisher Home, 1165 North Pleasant St., Amherst 01002.