PITTSBURGH, Pa., October 28, 2010—Watts Humphrey, founder of the Software Process Program at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and recipient of the National Medal of Technology, died Thursday at his home in Sarasota, Florida. He was 83.
“Watts Humphrey was one of the icons of software engineering—one of a handful of engineers like Barry Boehm, Fred Brooks, and Vic Basili who have helped define this young field,” said SEI director and CEO Dr. Paul Nielsen. “Watts brought engineering to software engineering. His work has had immeasurable impact on the global software community, tirelessly urging the community to emphasize quality, measurement, and performance.”
Known as the “Father of Software Quality” Humphrey dedicated the majority of his career to addressing problems in software development including schedule delays, cost increases, performance problems, and defects. Humphrey joined the SEI in 1986, after making what he described as an “outrageous commitment to change the world of software engineering.”
“Changing the world of anything is an outrageous personal commitment,” Humphrey said in an interview in early 2010, discussing his decision to come to the SEI. “I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and I wanted to be in an environment where I could work with folks and do that.”
“As the pioneering innovator behind several important software development processes, Watts more than met his promise to change the world of software engineering. His contributions go well beyond methodology and the many awards and accolades he received. For decades, his work inspired software engineers and his colleagues and friends worldwide. His warmth, energy, great spirit and dedication will be missed by all of us at Carnegie Mellon,” said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University.
Born on July 4, 1927, in Battle Creek, Michigan, Humphrey had a difficult time learning to read as a young child, and failed first grade. His father, also named Watts, moved the family to New England and enrolled his eldest son and namesake in a school where he could get one-to-one help with his reading. Humphrey, who later learned that he had dyslexia, graduated valedictorian of his high school class. After serving in the United States Navy, Humphrey earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Chicago. He then completed a master’s degree in physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and an MBA degree from the University of Chicago.
He arrived at the SEI after working for nearly three decades at IBM where, as director of programming and vice-president of technical development, he supervised 4,000 software professionals spread across 15 laboratories in seven countries.
At the SEI, Humphrey established the Software Process Program and led development of the Software Capability Maturity Model, and introduced the Software Process Assessment and Software Capability Evaluation methods. These later became the basis for the development of the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), a framework of software engineering best practices that have been adopted by thousands of organizations across the globe.
Anita Carleton, director of the SEI’s Software Engineering Process Management (SEPM) Program, said Humphrey’s passion for his work influenced her decision to come to the SEI.“He was a wonderful leader and a wonderful man. He set forth an energizing goal and an inspiring mission that we all wanted to be a part of,” said Carleton.
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