Distinguished Service Award

Awarded on the basis of value and degree of services to the Programming Languages Community. The award recognizes contributions to ACM SIGPLAN, its conferences, publications, or its local activities. The award includes a prize of $2,500. Current members of the ACM SIGPLAN Executive Committee are not eligible for this award.

Selection Committee
The chair of the selection committee is a member of the EC appointed by the SIGPLAN chair. Other committee members are selected by the chair of the selection committee with approval of the SIGPLAN chair. The SIGPLAN chair is an ex officio member of the committee and shall adjudicate conflicts of interest, appointing substitutes to the committee as necessary.

Nominations can be submitted at any time to the secretary of SIGPLAN. Nominations submitted by January 5th will be considered for that year’s award.  A nomination for the distinguished service award that is not awarded will remain for 3 years. Each nomination should consist of the following items:

  • Name, address, phone number, and email address of the person making the nomination (the nominator).
  • Name, address, phone number, and email address of the candidate for whom an award is recommended (the nominee).
  • A short statement (200-500 words) explaining why the nominee deserves the award in question.
  • Names and email addresses of 5-10 people who the nominator believes will support the nomination. The awards committee will ask some of these people for their opinions.


2016 Phil Wadler


Phil Wadler has been a tireless promoter of Programming Languages for over two decades. He has served in numerous heavy-service roles, including PC Chair of large conferences (such as ICFP and POPL), founding editor and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Functional Programming, member and later Chair of the SIGPLAN executive committee, PL area editor for the Journal of the ACM, and many more. In his ceaseless efforts to popularize deep concepts, Phil has given talks at several developer conferences, mentoring workshops, and summer schools; has never shied away from less glamorous service assignments (such as editing the Functional Programming column of SIGPLAN Notices or moderating the Types electronic forum); and has written two introductory books, on Functional Programming and on Java Generics. Phil is also responsible for the introduction of Functional Pearls as a paper class, since then regularly adopted by ICFP and POPL.

2015 Dan Grossman


Dan Grossman has made significant contributions to programming languages education. Roughly once a decade, the ACM and IEEE Computer Society publish revised curriculum recommendations for undergraduate-level computer science education. The 2001 Curriculum Recommendations included very little PL content, mostly material suitable for a CS1 course. As a member of the 2013 ACM/IEEE-CS Computing Curriculum Steering Committee, Dan was largely responsible for the revisions to the PL curriculum that reintroduced substantial up-to-date PL topics into the curriculum. This effort included convincing the steering committee and soliciting input from many members of the PL community. As part of these efforts, Dan also served as the chair of the SIGPLAN Education Board during his term as Member-at-Large on the SIGPLAN Executive Committee. Serving currently on the ACM Education Board, he continues to be an effective advocate for excellence in programming languages education.

2014 Simon Peyton Jones


Simon Peyton Jones has served the programming languages community for many years and in many capacities. In addition to serving on the SIGPLAN Executive Committee and on numerous program committees for the major SIGPLAN conferences, he has served as both program and general chair for ICFP and program chair for POPL, and as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Functional Programming, published by Cambridge University Press. His development and maintenance of GHC, the Glasgow Haskell Compiler, as well as his stewardship of the Haskell 98 standardization effort, have made Haskell into both an active research testbed and an industrial-strength language for commercial use, as recognized by the 2011 SIGPLAN Software Award. Last but not least, he has played a major leadership role in the recent reform of computing education in the UK. He co-founded and serves as chair of Computing at School, the group that was primarily responsible for the recent reform of the national curriculum; he was a member of the Royal Society working group that wrote the influential report “Shut down or restart: the way forward for computing in schools”; and he chaired the group that drafted the new national programme of study for Computing. Simon’s investments in UK education are inspiring, and will pay dividends for generations to come.

2013 Kathleen Fisher


Kathleen Fisher served on the SIGPLAN Executive committee for twelve years, from 2001 to 2012, taking on in succession the roles of member-at-large, vice-chair, chair, and past chair. During that time she worked tirelessly to promote programming languages among researchers and students. She has served as program chair for many major conferences, including ICFP 2004, CUFP 2006, FOOL/WOOD 2006-7, OOPSLA and SPLASH 2011. Kathleen has also served on the board of the CRA, co-chaired CRA’s Committee on the Status of Women, and edited the Journal of Functional Programming. She chairs the PLDI steering committee, and will be general chair for ICFP 2015.

When Kathleen sees a problem, she takes action to fix it. For example, seeing that programming languages were being neglected in Computer Science curriculum recommendations, she spearheaded an influential workshop and community effort that led to an increased role for programming languages in the ACM Curriculum, including new emphasis on polymorphism, higher-order functions, type systems, static analysis, and garbage collection. Concerned that students were not entering programming languages research, she, in collaboration with Ron Garcia and Stephanie Weirich, organized and secured funding for the first Programming Languages Mentoring Workshop, held at POPL in Philadelphia in 2012, and is helping to ensure the continuation of this event by serving on its steering committee.

Kathleen’s enthusiasm for programming languages, and for life, prompted many of today’s volunteers to take the first steps toward involvement in SIGPLAN affairs. The Executive Committee misses her wit, wisdom and guidance, but feels that she has truly earned the 2013 Distinguished Service Award.

2012 Jens Palsberg


The 2012 SIGPLAN service award goes to Jens Palsberg, who has led or served on an extraordinary number of program committees, mostly for SIGPLAN conferences and workshops. He was program chair of X10 ‘12, POPL ‘10, co-chair of SAS ‘09, chair of PDM ‘09, chair of EMSOFT in ‘08, chair of TACAS ‘06, chair of MemoCode ‘06, chair SREIS ‘02, co-chair of PASTE ‘02, and chair of SAS ‘00. He is general co-chair for ICESS ‘12, and previously was general chair of ICESS’10, SPIN in ‘08, POPL in ‘05, and conference chair for LICS in ‘09. He has been on the committees for almost 100 conferences and workshops between 1994 and 2013—an average of more than 5 per year over a 19 year period. Major conferences include POPL (3), PLDI (3), OOPSLA (3), ECOOP (11), SAS (7), ICSE (2), and EMSOFT(4).

Jens is the Editor-in-Chief for TOPLAS, having previously served as an associate editor. He is also on the SIGPLAN CACM Research Highlights Selection Committee, and on the Information & Computation Editorial Board. He was previously secretary/treasurer of SIGBED, and while his work in the SIGBED community is not directly related to SIGPLAN, he has actively contributed a languages-oriented perspective and agenda to that community.

The high quality of conferences and journals in our field depends on diligent service on program committees and by editors. This award is a small way of thanking Jens for the decades of service he has given to our community in these vital roles.

2011 Kathryn S McKinley


Kathryn has served the SIGPLAN community for many years as a researcher, educator, mentor, reviewer, and leader. She has worked in a number of formal SIGPLAN leadership roles, including co-Editor of TOPLAS, Associate Editor of TACO, Program Chair for ASPLOS and PLDI, Editor of “20 Years of PLDI (1979-1999)”, and as a leading proponent of the double-blind reviewing procedures now adopted by many SIGPLAN conferences. She has served on the PLDI, ASPLOS, and OOPSLA steering committees, and as Secretary and Treasurer of the SIGPLAN Executive Committee.

Kathryn’s service to the broader programming-language community beyond SIGPLAN extends to her activities on the CRA-W Board, organizer of the CRA-W Programming Language Summer School and CRA-W Workshop on Programming Languages, Operating Systems, and Architecture. Kathryn has served on the program committees of SIGPLAN’s ASPLOS, PLDI, OOPSLA, CGO, MSP, and ISMM conferences, and on other ACM and IEEE conferences such as PACT (for which she also served as program chair), SIGMETRICS, CC, ICPP, and ISCA.

As a measure of her mentoring skills, Kathryn’s students have distinguished themselves by winning prestigious awards such as SIGPLAN’s Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award, PLDI’s Student Research Competition, and several Best Presentation awards at SIGPLAN conferences. They have won prestigious graduate Research Fellowships from Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, and the National Science Foundation. As a member of the SIGPLAN community and representative to the broader computing community, Kathryn has hugely influenced the choices of many to pursue successful careers in programming language research and development.

2010 Jack W. Davidson


Jack Davidson has contributed to the SIGPLAN community for many years, including as SIGPLAN chair (2005-2007), the SIGPLAN Communication Director (1999-present), a member of the SIGPLAN CACM Research Highlights Nominating Committee, a member of the ACM Publications Board, a member of the ACM SIG Governing Board and as its representative to the ACM Council, Associate Editor of ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, Associate Editor of ACM Transactions on Computer Architecture and Optimization, General Chair of PLDI (1998), chair of the PLDI steering committee (2009-2012), co-chair of LCTES (2000), chair of the LCTES steering committee (2001-2003), and a member of many conference program committees. Jack was instrumental in the development of LCTES as a SIGPLAN conference. As the Chair of SIGPLAN, Jack orchestrated the establishment of several SIGPLAN awards, including the Most Influential Paper Awards for OOPSLA and ICFP and the John Vlissides Award. In sum, Jack has made substantial and sustained contributions to the programming languages research community and to SIGPLAN in particular.

2009 Mamdouh Ibrahim


For the past 15 years, Mamdouh Ibrahim has served the SIGPLAN community by helping to organize, to run, and to envision the future of OOPSLA, SIGPLAN’s largest conference. Dr. Ibrahim served as Workshop Chair in 1993, Demonstration Chair in 1994, Poster Chair in 1995, Experience Report Chair in 1996, Tutorial Chair in 1997, Publicity Chair in 1999, Treasurer in 2000 and 2001, and Conference Chair in 2002. He served on the program committee in 1996 and 1997. He served on the Steering Committee from 2003 to 2008, chairing the committee from 2005 to 2008. During this period, OOPSLA faced significant challenges because of drops in attendance caused by terrorist attacks, economic downturns, and shifting technological trends. Throughout his tenure, Dr. Ibrahim has served with good humor, skillful organization, and dedication, finding creative solutions to a variety of challenges and recruiting other dedicated people to join the organization.

2008 Michael G. Burke


For many years, Michael Burke has served the SIGPLAN community with distinction through his professional activities as well as through his widely known and respected research. His SIGPLAN service has spanned a number of roles, including SIGPLAN Member-at-Large from 1997 to 2001, Vice Chair from 2001 to 2003, SIGPLAN Chair from 2003 to 2005, and Past Chair from 2005 to

  1. During his time on the SIGPLAN Executive Committee, Mike spearheaded the effort to introduce Most Influential Paper Awards for POPL and PLDI, awards that were eventually also adopted by OOPSLA and ICFP. Mike has also given his valuable time in a number of capacities to the PLDI community: as a program committee member in 1990 and 1995, Program Chair in 1996, General Chair in 2001, and Chair of the Steering Committee from 2007 to 2009. He is currently serving as an Associate Editor of ACM’s Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems (TOPLAS), which is widely viewed by SIGPLAN members as the premier forum for publishing their research.

2007 Linda Northrop

2006 Hans Boehm

2005 No award given

2004 Ron Cytron

2003 Mary Lou Soffa

2002 Andrew Appel

2001 Barbara Ryder

2000 David Wise

1999 Loren Meissner

1998 Brent Hailpern

1997 Jan Lee

1997 Jean Sammet

1996 Dick Wexelblat

1996 John Richards