Remembering David W. Krumme, Associate Professor Emeritus of Computer Science

David W. Krumme, Associate Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, passed away on February 15, 2013 surrounded by his family and close friends.

At Tufts, Professor Krumme taught computer architecture, operating systems, compilers, parallel computing, and C++. After his retirement from Tufts, he was a principal in Airbits Wireless, an Internet service provider in Estes Park, Colorado, which he founded and operated with his wife Cynthia, their son Matt and daughter Catherine, and Cynthia's sister Deborah.

 Professor Krumme was the first faculty member to chair what had become Tufts University's School of Engineering's Computer Science department and was also the first to retire from it. Upon Professor Krumme's retirement in 2004, computer science alumna Karen Donoghue, A87, helped establish the David W. Krumme Fund for Experimental Computer Science, which has supported many students majoring in computer science at Tufts University.

 Professor Krumme came to Tufts in 1977 as a member of the Department of Mathematics at a time when computer science was not even a subject of study at many schools. While his doctorate was in applied mathematics, as a master's student he contributed software to the Berkeley UNIX project, and came to Tufts with remarkable software development and systems skills.

 Professor Krumme's research always straddled the line between theory and practice. At Tufts, his theoretical work centered upon issues in parallel and distributed computing, including related graph theory and finite combinatorics. In practice Professor Krumme wrote innumerable lines of code in C, C++, and countless other computing languages, including one compiler (“Sargasso C”) and two real-time operating systems.

 He also wrote numerous tools that enhanced and transformed day-to-day operations in the department, including the “Ugrade” system for automated grading of computer science assignments. The concepts and techniques that Professor Krumme developed, and the resulting Ugrade software, transformed the way computer science was taught at Tufts. To this day, the successor of Ugrade – based upon the same principles and design – is in daily use in Tufts computer science instruction.

 In teaching, Professor Krumme believed in learning by doing. In his class on compilers, students wrote a compiler. In his class on operating systems, students wrote most of an operating system. In his “Data Structures” and “Computer Architecture” courses, students learned to write programs that interacted with simulators of real-world environments. To receive credit, each student's program had to be able to solve thousands of potential real-world problems. Professor Krumme's assignments required the professor to both craft a technically complex simulator and then compete alongside students for the best possible solution, providing an extremely cohesive and immersive hands-on experience in real-life programming.

 Given the nature and challenge inherent in Professor Krumme's assignments, it became clear that using central computers shared by other Tufts departments would lead to difficulties. To both promote learning and protect centralized systems, Professor Krumme oversaw the development of a separate departmental network in which emphasis was upon experimentation and creative work rather than reliability and robustness. It was a uniquely proactive environment, where students who requested access to a new piece of software were often granted the privileges to install it for themselves.

 Professor Krumme's golden rule for students was “you break it, you fix it.” Many a student system administrator learned the hard way that a minor typo in an administrative command can result in a frantic all-night work session recovering from the mistake. One unwritten rule of the network was that if the network broke without assistance from the students, Professor Krumme would come to the rescue. His dedication was perhaps easiest to quantify in terms of the late night work and all-nighters he endured in the service of Computer Science and its computing needs.

 Professor Krumme remained a “hacker” in the most positive sense of the word: a master programmer who makes complex systems function properly by a combination of perseverance, high standards for himself and his students, dedication to scientific truth, exacting scientific method, mathematical precision and proof, and a deep knowledge of the practical semantics and inner workings of each subsystem.

 David is survived by his wife Cynthia, his son Matthew, his daughter Catherine, his sister-in-law Deborah, all of Estes Park, Colorado, his father George and his brother Robert of Tulsa, Oklahoma, extended family in Oklahoma, Colorado and California, and friends everywhere who love him.

 Memorial contributions may be made to The Estes Park Learning Place, 600 S. St. Vrain -Unit 2, Bella Fortuna, a non-profit he created to provide affordable office space for non-profits in Estes, 3151 S. St. Vrain, or to the Larimer County Humane Society, larimerhumane.org.