Distinguished Service Award

Given by ACM SIGPLAN to recognize distinguished service 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. Current members of the ACM SIGPLAN Executive Committee are not eligible for this award.

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


Please submit nominations using the Web form at https://awards.sigplan.org/. Nominations submitted on or before January 15th will be considered for award that year. A nomination for the Distinguished Service Award that is not selected will remain in consideration for three years.

Each nomination should consist of 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 (200-500 words) explaining why the nominee deserves the award.
  • 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.


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.


2024 Emery Berger


Emery Berger has worked tirelessly to improve the PL research community and his contributions have had lasting impact for SIGPLAN and beyond. Emery has been a driving force advocating for reproducibility and rigorous empirical evaluation in both research and the processes that enable meaningful research. Contributions include leadership in how we chair conferences, open source software used both by researchers and in commercial products, CSrankings.org to provide valuable objective information about computer science research programs, and service: on the SIGPLAN Executive Committee, co-leading establishment of the SIGPLAN PL Software Award, driving PL research into CACM Research Highlights, and as TOPLAS Associate Editor. He even designed the SIGPLAN social media logo. Emery has deep passion for rigorous review processes and brought that to his service as program chair of PLDI and co-chair ASPLOS, where he documented and propagated clear guidelines for PC members and session chairs. Emery has also been a passionate advocate for double-blind reviewing, systematically evaluating its effectiveness and co-authoring a related CACM article, “Effectiveness of Anonymization in Double-Blind Review”, setting the bar for what is now established SIGPLAN practice.

  • Selection committee: Antony Hosking, Kathleen Fisher, Steve Blackburn, Zena Ariola, Heather Miller

2023 Talia Ringer


Talia Ringer has been fearless and passionate about building a welcoming and inclusive environment in the PL community, especially for newcomers. Even so early in their career, Talia’s service has already had extraordinary impact in the PL community and beyond. In 2020, Talia founded SIGPLAN-M, a cross-institutional long-term mentoring program for the PL community, which Talia chaired until recently. It currently reaches more than 200 mentors and 300 mentees across more than 41 countries, and has been described by mentees as “life changing” and “a career saver.” Talia then helped the computer architecture community start their own long-term mentoring program. The two programs, the history, and their impact is described in CACM. Last year, Talia founded the Computing Connections Fellowship, to provide institution-independent transitional funding and research visits for CS Ph.D. students, initially in PL. Talia led the fundraising necessary to run the fellowship and the recruiting of a committee to select the awardees.

  • Selection committee: Antony Hosking, Kathleen Fisher, Steve Blackburn, Zena Ariola, Heather Miller

2022 Mike Hicks


Mike Hicks has been an incredibly committed and energetic contributor to the SIGPLAN community for many long years. He has directly served on the SIGPLAN Executive Committee as an excellent Chair (2015-2018), Past Chair (2018–2021) and trusted troubleshooter, as TOPLAS associate editor (2012–2017), POPL PC Chair, and POPL Steering Committee Chair (2018–2021). His innovations in these roles include introducing the now-standard double-blind reviewing for POPL, seeing through the creation of PACMPL as Gold Open Access, expanding PLMW to the “big four” SIGPLAN conferences, founding (in 2019) and serving as prolific Editor (until mid-2021) of the highly successful SIGPLAN blog PL Perspectives, and serving on dozens of SIGPLAN conference program committees. He also co-founded the PlanQC workshop on programming languages for quantum computing, which attracts attendees from both SIGPLAN and much further afield.

Mike was a founding member of the SIGPLAN Climate Committee (2016 to 2020), where he brought his usual boundless energy to the problem of addressing the carbon footprint of SIGPLAN’s (and ACM’s) conferences, and on the SIGPLAN Empirical Evaluation Committee.

Mike has also made important innovations in community outreach—in particular, via the (brilliant!) Build It / Break It / Fix It contests that he has run for many years at Maryland. These contests are both a wonderful arena for the broader software community to practice their software engineering skills and a subversive venue for propagating sound ideas about good engineering practices and the benefits of good programming languages.

  • Selection committee: Antony Hosking, Kathleen Fisher, Steve Blackburn, Zena Ariola, Heather Miller

2021 Ben Zorn


Ben Zorn has served the programming language community for many years and in many capacities. He is currently a Partner Researcher at Microsoft Research (MSR). At MSR, between 2012 and 2019 he co-managed the Research in Software Engineering (RiSE) group, a prominent group of over 30 researchers and developers working in programming languages and software engineering. Under his active mentorship, many of his colleagues and students/professors that visited RiSE have gone on to become luminaries and longstanding members of the program language community. He has served as the Program Chair of PLDI 1999, General Chair of PLDI 2010, Co-Program Chair of PACT 2006, and Program chair of MSP’05. He has served as an Associate Editor of the ACM journals Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, and Transactions on Architecture and Code Optimization. He served seven years as a Member-at-Large of the SIGPLAN Executive Committee and four years as a member of the ACM Software Systems Award Committee. In addition, he has served in the Steering Committees of PLDI, PACT, CGO, MSP, ISMM, and OOPSLA. Between 2014 and 2020 he served as a member of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) Council, a committee of the Computing Research Association (CRA). He is a co-founder and current co-chair of CRA-Industry, a new CRA standing committee that convenes industry partners on computing research topics of mutual interest and connects them with CRA’s academic and government constituents.

2019 Jan Vitek


Jan Vitek has provided extraordinary and highly visible service to the SIGPLAN and broader programming languages community. Jan is a past SIGPLAN EC chair; during his tenure, he led numerous successful efforts to improve SIGPLAN, including spearheading initiatives for open access and the Proceedings of the ACM. Jan’s chairmanship of conferences is unequalled. Jan served as de facto general chair (“comfy chair”) of ECOOP for four years and as general chair of ETAPS, ISMM, LCTES, PLDI, and SPLASH; he also serves on a variety of steering committees, and has been program chair of ECOOP, ESOP, and VEE, among others. Jan was the co-founder and co-organizer of the CurryOn conference and is the co-organizer of PLISS, the Programming Language Implementation Summer School. Jan was instrumental in bringing the Artifact Evaluation process to SIGPLAN conferences and ECOOP, serving as program chair of the AEC for OOPSLA, POPL, ECOOP, and PLDI. All of the letter writers describe his work as invaluable and concur that it is difficult to imagine a more worthy winner of the SIGPLAN Distinguished Service Award.

2018 Zena Ariola


Zena Ariola has been the founder and long-time organizer (together with a rotating board) of the Oregon Programming Languages Summer School (OPLSS). The school has run annually for over 15 years and has been immensely successful. It is now the de facto forum for establishing a common baseline in educating PL Ph.D. students (and often M.Sc. and advanced undergraduates), especially in the US, but also, to an increasing extent, internationally. The school is a large part of what has made PL a community with shared principles in the past two decades, especially for young scientists. The quality of the event has been extremely high.

Annual participation has risen to over 100 students. In total, OPLSS has attracted over 1100 students and 160 speakers; over 750 hours of content has been delivered, with lecture notes and videos available through the OPLSS archives and on YouTube. Since its inception, OPLSS has received annual support from SIGPLAN and the National Science Foundation. The school has also been consistently successful at attracting substantial industrial support, from companies such as BAE, Draper Laboratories, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. This funding is used to pay the operating costs of the program, but, more importantly, subsidizes the participation of students from smaller departments and foreign students. The school affords great networking opportunities and a thorough treatment of topics, especially in theoretical PL. Former students speak glowingly of the warm and supportive atmosphere, the emphasis on inclusion for less-experienced students, the networking and mentoring among women in computer science, and the chance to meet leading researchers and be exposed to their work. Quite often students speak of the school as having changed the direction of their lives, for example choosing to study programming languages in graduate school. An important component of the school’s success has been its fixed location at the University of Oregon.

By establishing and running OPLSS, Prof Ariola has made an enormous contribution to the field of programming languages.



No award made.

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