Distinguished Educator Award

Given by ACM SIGPLAN to recognize distinguished educational contributions 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.

We define contributions in the broadest sense. In particular we wish to recognize:

  • Pedagogy about programming languages
  • Pedagogy using novel programming languages ideas
  • Pedagogy as broadly construed:
    • both curriculum and delivery
    • classroom (school, undergraduate, graduate)
    • online courses
    • online blogs/videos, etc.

All questions about the Distinguished Educator Award should be directed to the SIGPLAN Awards co-Chairs.


Please use http://awards.sigplan.org/ to submit nominations. Nominations submitted on or before January 15th will be considered for award that year. A nomination for the Distinguished Educator Award that is not selected will remain in consideration for a total of three years. In any given year at most one nomination will be selected (if no nominee is strong enough there should be no award that year).

Each nomination should include the following items:

  • Name, affiliation, phone number, and email address of the candidate for whom an award is recommended (the nominee).
  • Name, affiliation, phone number, and email address of the person making the nomination (the nominator).
  • A short statement explaining why the nominee deserves the award. This should include any information about the context of the work to help the Award Committee understand its significance.
  • Names and email addresses of 5-10 people who the nominator believes will support the nomination. The awards committee will ask at least three of these people for their opinions.

The candidate may be nominated simultaneously for other awards, such as the ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award.


Award recipients are selected by a committee constituted as follows:

  • The Chair of the committee shall be a member of the SIGPLAN Executive Committee (EC), and shall be appointed by the executive committee.
  • The SIGPLAN EC Chair shall be an ex-officio member of the committee. If the SIGPLAN EC Chair is unable to serve, he or she may appoint another member of the SIGPLAN EC as a substitute.
  • The steering committees of the major SIGPLAN Conferences, POPL, PLDI, ICFP, and SPLASH, shall each appoint a member to the committee.

The current committee comprises:

Conflicts of Interest

If any member of the committee has a conflict of interest with a given nominee they shall declare that to the committee; once so declared, conflicts of interest shall not automatically prevent a committee member from taking part in the selection process. However, if a member of the committee, or the chair of the committee, feels that the association of a committee member with a nominee would interfere with impartial consideration of the nominees, that conflicted member shall be absented from the relevant parts of the discussion. If a committee member has conflicts of interest with more than one nominee, the Chair of the Committee may ask the constituency that appointed the committee member to select a replacement member. The SIGPLAN EC Chair will adjudicate as necessary.


2021 Benjamin Pierce


Benjamin Pierce is an absolutely exceptional educator and mentor. Benjamin is passionate about providing students with the clearest explanations and the most insight-provoking exercises, and he works tirelessly to produce them. Benjamin’s contributions to programming languages education are truly inspiring, both to students who use his books, and to teachers. His Types and Programming Languages book covering untyped lambda calculus to System F, subtyping, objects, mutable state, and recursive types, published in 2002, is widely used in advanced undergraduate and graduate-level courses. The books published prior to Benjamin’s are targeted at a more mathematical audience; Benjamin’s starts with programmers. Its successor, Advanced Types and Programming Languages, edited by Benjamin, dives deeper into: substructural logic, logical relations, dependent types, module systems, and type inference. Together these textbooks present the very foundations of programming languages research in a beautifully written and accessible way. More recently, Benjamin’s educational contributions have shifted online, to the novel, and very successful, Software Foundations series. These volumes, again written with clarity and great accessibility, explain the foundations of logic and programming languages semantics through the lens of formal verification. Part textbook and part interactive proof-script, they use the Coq theorem prover as a vehicle for students to learn about propositional logic, induction principles, Hoare logic, and lambda calculus, among many other topics. Initiated as a course offered at the University of Pennsylvania, the Software Foundations has grown into a collaborative, multi-institution community effort. Benjamin is also a kind and attentive mentor, and generous and encouraging to students via events like the DeepSpec summer school, and the PL Mentoring Workshops.