Computer science professor Paul Hudak will be the ninth master of Saybrook College, University President Richard Levin announced Thursday before a packed Saybrook dining hall.
Hudak, a specialist in programming language and computer music, will take over the post from Edward Kamens on July 1. Kamens agreed to take the helm of Saybrook temporarily after his wife, Sterling Professor of Art History Mary Miller, left to assume the deanship of Yale College on Dec. 1.
Levin announced the decision to a standing ovation from Saybrook students that ended in the college’s familiar “Say What/Saybrook” cheer.
“I’m a strong believer in family,” Hudak said in an interview after the ceremony. “I think a college is more than a community, it’s a family.”
Hudak’s term will last five years. Previously he chaired the Department of Computer Science from 1999-2005 and helped develop the Computing and the Arts major, which combines computing with art, history of art, music or theater studies. Hudak was hitherto unaffiliated with the college.
Hudak graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1973. After earning a master’s of science in computer science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a 1982 doctorate in computer science from the University of Utah, he became an assistant professor at Yale that same year.
Hudak is best known for his role in designing the programming language Haskell. He later designed a language for composing music in Haskell called Haskore.
“Paul Hudak is going to be a wonderful leader of Saybrook College,” Miller said in a statement, adding that she first met Hudak at an event where Hudak brought one of the founders of animation studio Pixar to campus. “He’s warm, he’s direct, he’s funny. Saybrook will be in good hands, indeed.”
Associate Master-designate Cathy Van Dyke SOM ’86 is mentor coordinator for the New Haven Public Schools Science Fair Program. Van Dyke graduated summa cum laude from McDaniel College with a bachelor’s in chemistry. She would later earn a master’s in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the University of North Carolina, and a master’s of public and private management from the School of Management.
Hudak said the hardest part of the appointment process was keeping the news to himself.
“It’s like having a great story that you can’t tell anyone about,” he said.
Hudak claimed to have little idea of what he was getting himself into, but showed a grasp of Saybrook tradition. His brief address ended with a story from Hudak’s youth.
“When I was a kid, I would introduce myself as Paul Hudak, and people would respond, ‘Who dat?’ ” Hudak said, intoning the final words as a Saybrugian senior would chant “Say what?”
He then added, jokingly:
“Until I eventually punched them in the nose.”
As the ceremony ended, though, the man of the night limited himself to leading a resounding version of the traditional chant.
“I couldn’t believe the energy, the warmth,” Hudak said after the announcement. “I had only expected there to be 20 people.”
Saybrook students received an e-mail from Kamens yesterday afternoon announcing the event. Students lingering over dinner and Saybrugians waiting in the hall entrance jammed the hallway to the Saybrook Common Room in anticipation of Levin’s announcement.
Five students interviewed expressed excitement about Hudak, but Joseph Breen ’12 admitted to not having known the master-designate prior to the announcement.
“I don’t know him, and that’s probably how many people feel,” Breen said.
Daniel Spector ’11, who plans to major in Computing and the Arts and took a lecture course with Hudak, described Hudak as available to students in his lecture.
“He’s a warm person,” Spector added.
Hudak is on leave this semester and will be traveling frequently, but vowed to attend Saybrook events to become acquainted with the college. Needless to say, expectations are high.
“I love that he had the courage to do the chant,” Kate Grace ’11 said. “Now he just has to do the strip with us.”