Mainstay lecturer Rick Ord is retiring this month, and a lot of people are in denial about it. Rick has been part of the Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) department for nearly four decades – longer, in fact, than there has actually been a CSE.
Rick started taking undergrad classes when the department was called Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In the intervening years, he earned an MS in computer science, worked as a Unix system programmer for Academic Computing Services, taught at UCSD extension and ultimately became a fulltime lecturer.
“When I started working at UCSD, I thought I’d only be here a few years,” says Rick, “and I’ve been here 36.”
Teacher and Mentor
Since 1994, Rick has been honored for his teaching 14 times. He won Teacher of the Year so many times, the Jacobs School of Engineering had to change the eligibility requirements to give someone else a chance.
“He’s really become the face of the department for many students,” notes CSE Department Chair, Dean Tullsen. “A lot of times, he’s one of the first instructors they see as new majors.”
Rick cemented his reputation by working hard and making himself available. He often stayed late, sometimes until 10 pm. He tried to schedule most of his classes on Tuesday/Thursday, giving him the rest of the week for office hours. Students knew they could drop by anytime for support. Even more importantly, he remembers who they are.
“He seems to know every student’s name, and I don’t know how he does it,” says fellow lecturer, Taner Halicioglu. “There will be students that graduated three years ago, and he greets them by name.”
Having the office right next to Rick’s, Halicioglu has had ample opportunity to see him in action.
“He goes above and beyond so many times,” says Halicioglu,” being that kind of person who is doing it to be helpful. He really cares, and we just need that in the world. It’s good to see, and it rubs off on people.”
Introducing Undergrad Tutors
One of Ord’s most important legacies is the Undergraduate Tutor Program. Rick noticed that some of his undergraduates had a really good feel for helping their fellow students. Unlike many of the teaching assistants, who had graduated from other universities, the undergrads had taken their classes at CSE and really understood what the faculty expected.
Rick saw the value and worked with the administration to find money for undergrad tutors, a process that continues to this day. Over the years, the program slowly grew, and now there’s a wall of tutor photographs outside his office.
“I had a couple and then a couple more and then a couple more,” says Rick. “It’s really grown, and more faculty have found that undergrad tutors are a great resource to handle these really large classes.”
Rick has also made tutoring a community affair, organizing grading parties and other events to bring people together. Tutors get together for pizza or barbecue and companies have taken notice.
“Recruiters would see this, and they would sit in and sometimes even participate,” says Halicioglu. “They realized these students have amazing skill sets, in part, because of this tutor program.”
The calendar has filled up with events honoring Rick, making his busy schedule even more frenetic.
“I need to retire before I can even think about retiring,” jokes Rick. “I’m looking forward to sleeping in; no more 8 am classes. I can relax a little bit.”
He’s kept up with many of his students over the years and delights in their successes in graduate school and the workforce. They think pretty highly of him as well (See The Students Have Spoken).
“He’s fun just to see in the halls because he’s always smiling, always happy,” says Tullsen. “If I’m talking to alumni, it’s Rick’s name that comes up. He has a special relationship with a lot of our students.”
It’s hard for any department to lose someone as talented and respected as Rick Ord. Still, this quarter may not be the last word from him.
“A lot of people are going to miss him,” says Halicioglu. “But I don’t think he’ll be able to stay away. We’ll draw him here to do a lecture series…something.”