John L. Hennessy

John Leroy Hennessy (born September 22, 1952) is an American computer scientist, academician, businessman, and Chair of Alphabet Inc.[5] Hennessy is one of the founders of MIPS Computer Systems Inc. as well as Atheros and served as the tenth President of Stanford University. Hennessy announced that he would step down in the summer of 2016. He was succeeded as President by Marc Tessier-Lavigne.[6] Marc Andreessen called him "the godfather of Silicon Valley."[7]

John L. Hennessy
10th President of Stanford University
In office
Preceded byGerhard Casper
Succeeded byMarc Tessier-Lavigne
11th Provost of Stanford University
In office
Preceded byCondoleezza Rice
Succeeded byJohn Etchemendy
Personal details
John Leroy Hennessy

(1952-09-22) September 22, 1952
Huntington, New York
Alma materStony Brook University (M.S., 1975; Ph.D., 1977)
Villanova University (B.S., 1973)
Known forRISC, MIPS Technologies, Atheros
AwardsTuring Award (2017)
IEEE Medal of Honor (2012)
Computer History Museum Fellow (2007) [1]
National Academy of Engineering Member
National Academy of Sciences Member
American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow
ACM Fellow
IEEE Fellow
Scientific career
FieldsComputer architecture[2]
ThesisA real-time language for small processors: design, definition and implementation (1977)
Doctoral advisorRichard Kieburtz
Doctoral students

Along with David Patterson, Hennessy won the 2017 Turing Award for their work in developing the reduced instruction set computer (RISC) architecture, which is now used in 99% of new computer chips.[8]

Early life

Hennessy was raised in Huntington, New York, as one of six children.[7] His father was an aerospace engineer and his mother was a teacher before raising her children.[7]

He earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University, and his master's degree and Ph.D. in computer science from Stony Brook University.[9][10] He is married to his high school sweetheart, Andrea Berti.[7]


Hennessy became a Stanford faculty member in 1977. In 1981, he began the MIPS project to investigate RISC processors, and in 1984, he used his sabbatical year to found MIPS Computer Systems Inc. to commercialize the technology developed by his research. In 1987, he became the Willard and Inez Kerr Bell Endowed Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.[9]

Hennessy served as director of Stanford's Computer System Laboratory (1989–93), a research center run by Stanford's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments. He was chair of the Department of Computer Science (1994–96) and Dean of the School of Engineering (1996–99).[9]

In 1999, Stanford President Gerhard Casper appointed Hennessy to succeed Condoleezza Rice as Provost of Stanford University. When Casper stepped down to focus on teaching in 2000, the Stanford Board of Trustees named Hennessy to succeed Casper as president. In 2008, Hennessy earned a salary of $1,091,589 ($702,771 base salary, $259,592 deferred benefits, $129,226 non-tax benefits), the 23rd highest among all American university presidents.[11]

In 1997, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).[12]

Hennessy is a board member of Google (later Alphabet Inc.),[13] Cisco Systems,[14] Atheros Communications,[15] and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.[16]

In 2007, he was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for fundamental contributions to engineering education, advances in computer architecture, and the integration of leading-edge research with education".[17]

On October 14, 2010, Hennessy was presented a khata by the 14th Dalai Lama before His Holiness addressed Maples Pavilion.[18]

In December 2010, Hennessy coauthored an editorial with Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust urging the passage of the DREAM Act;[19] the legislation did not pass the 111th United States Congress.

In 2012, Hennessy was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor.[20] The IEEE awarded Hennessy their highest recognition "for pioneering the RISC processor architecture and for leadership in computer engineering and higher education".[21] In 2012, Hennessy received an honorary doctor of mathematics degree from the University of Waterloo (Canada), in celebration of his profound contributions to modern computer architecture and to post-secondary education.

In 2013, Hennessy became a judge for the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. He has remained on the judging panel for the subsequent awards in 2015 and 2017.

In June 2015, Hennessy announced that he would step down as Stanford president in summer 2016.[22]

In 2016, Hennessy co-founded the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program; he serves as its inaugural director. The program has a $750 million endowment to fully fund graduate students at Stanford for up to three years.[23][24] The inaugural class of 51 scholars from 21 countries arrived at Stanford in the fall of 2018.[25]

In 2017, he was elected to International Fellow[26] of the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK.

In February 2018, Hennessy was announced as the new Chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company.[27]

On March 21, 2018, together with David Patterson, he was awarded the 2017 ACM A.M. Turing Award for the development of the reduced instruction set computer (RISC) architecture in the 1980s.[8]. The award praised them for "pioneering a systematic, quantitative approach to the design and evaluation of computer architectures with enduring impact on the microprocessor industry".[28]


Hennessy has a history of strong interest and involvement in college-level computer education. He co-authored, with David A. Patterson, two well-known books on computer architecture, Computer Organization and Design: the Hardware/Software Interface and Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach,[2] which introduced the DLX RISC architecture. They have been widely used as textbooks for graduate and undergraduate courses since 1990.

Hennessy also contributed to updating Donald Knuth's MIX processor to the MMIX. Both are model computers used in Knuth's classic series, The Art of Computer Programming. MMIX is Knuth's DLX equivalent.

In 2004, he was awarded the Association for Computing Machinery SIGARCH ISCA Influential Paper Award for his 1989 co-authored paper on high performing cache hierarchies.[29] He received the award again in 2009 for his 1994 co-authored paper on the Stanford FLASH multiprocessor.[30]

Selected publications

  • Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach[2]
  • Patterson, David A.; Hennessy, John L. (1994). Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware/Software Interface. Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 978-0-12-370606-5.
  • Gharachorloo, Kourosh; D. Lenoski; J. Laudon; P. Gibbons; A. Gupta; J. Hennessy (1990). "Memory consistency and event ordering in scalable shared-memory multiprocessors". Proceedings of the 17th annual international symposium on Computer Architecture. International Symposium on Computer Architecture. pp. 15–26.
  • Lenoski, Daniel; J. Laudon; K. Gharachorloo; A. Gupta; J. Hennessy (1990). "The directory-based cache coherence protocol for the DASH multiprocessor". Proceedings of the 17th annual international symposium on Computer Architecture. International Symposium on Computer Architecture. pp. 148–159.


  1. "John Hennessy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-03.
  2. Patterson, David; Hennessy, John H.; Arpaci-Dusseau, Andrea C. (2007). Computer architecture: a quantitative approach. San Diego: Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 978-0-12-370490-0.
  3. John L. Hennessy at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. Paulson, Lawrence Charles (1981). A Compiler Generator for Semantic Grammars (PhD thesis). Stanford University. OCLC 757240716. ProQuest 303229537.
  5. Haselton, Todd (2018-02-01). "John Hennessy named as Alphabet's new board chairman". CNBC. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  6. "Stanford University President John L. Hennessy to step down in 2016". Stanford News. 2015-06-11. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  7. Auletta, Ken (April 30, 2012). "Get Rich U." The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 25 March 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  8. "Computer Chip Visionaries Win Turing Award". The New York Times. 2018-03-21.
  9. "Curriculum Vitae". Office of the President. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  10. Hennessy, John Leroy (1977). A real-time language for small processors: design, definition, and implementation (Ph.D.). State University of New York at Stony Brook. OCLC 31799595 via ProQuest.
  11. "Million-Dollar College Presidents". The Daily Beast. November 14, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  12. "ACM Fellows - H". Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  13. "Board of Directors". Google Investor Relations. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  14. "Governing Board". Cisco Systems.
  15. "Governing Board". Atheros Communications.
  16. "Board of Trustees". Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
  17. "John Hennessy". Computer History Museum. Archived from the original on 2012-10-03. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
  18. "President Hennessy salutes the Dalai Lama, and is honored in return". Stanford University Report. October 14, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  19. "Deserving of the DREAM". Politico. December 8, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  20. "Stanford President Hennessy wins IEEE's highest honor". December 2011.
  21. "IEEE Medal of Honor Recipients" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-22.
  22. "Stanford University President John L. Hennessy to step down in 2016". 2015-06-11.
  23. Frequently Asked Questions | Knight-Hennessy Scholars Stanford, Retrieved 15 August 2016
  24. Amini, Mariam (2018-03-03). "Alphabet's John Hennessy talks about helping international students with scholarships". CNBC. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  25. Chang, Annie (16 Feb 2018). "Inaugural Knight-Hennessy Scholars selected". The Stanford Daily.
  26. "John L. Hennessy elected to Royal Academy of Engineering". 2017-09-07.
  27. "Alphabet Names New Executive Chairman to Replace Eric Schmidt". Fortune. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  28. "John Hennessy and David Patterson will receive the 2017 ACM A.M. Turing Award". Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  29. Przybylski, S.; Horowitz, M.; Hennessy, J. (1989). "Characteristics of performance-optimal multi-level cache hierarchies". ACM Sigarch Computer Architecture News. 17 (3): 114–121. doi:10.1145/74926.74939.
  30. Kuskin, J.; Horowitz, M.; Gupta, A.; Rosenblum, M.; Hennessy, J.; Ofelt, D.; Heinrich, M.; Heinlein, J.; Simoni, R.; Gharachorloo, K.; Chapin, J.; Nakahira, D.; Baxter, J. (1994). "The Stanford FLASH multiprocessor". ACM Sigarch Computer Architecture News. 22 (2): 302–313. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/192007.192056.

See also

Academic offices
Preceded by
Condoleezza Rice
Provost of Stanford University
Succeeded by
John Etchemendy
Preceded by
Gerhard Casper
President of Stanford University
Succeeded by
Marc Tessier-Lavigne
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