By Bethany Leggett
Wake Forest University has named Ron Doyle as the inaugural Katherine and Dickerson Wright Presidential Chair in Computer Science and Entrepreneurship. As the presidential chair, Doyle will focus on educating computer science students through an entrepreneurial lens and showcasing technological advantages for startups, venture capitalists, and those enrolled in the Center for Entrepreneurship programs and courses.
Doyle comes to Wake Forest with an extensive career in technological ventures — having worked in the field for 25 years, most recently at CA Technologies and IBM before that — and understands how technology and innovation enhance each other. His focus at Wake Forest will be in preparing students to enter the workforce with a creative approach to their future prospects.
“Throughout my career, I’ve recognized the rapid advancement of computing technology. These new technologies always present both opportunities and challenges to employers and employees. Employers seek to hire graduates who are prepared to contribute, while new graduates look for opportunities to work on exciting projects and make a difference,” Doyle said. “As I continue to work in the computer software industry and now also with higher education at Wake Forest University, I am excited to contribute in both environments with the goals of helping students and faculty better understand the skills employers seek while also contributing to a better potential workforce.”
The chair — one of 10 presidential chairs created from the Wake Will Lead campaign to recruit and retain faculty who are exceptional scholars and researchers in their field as well as excellent teachers — is named for Katherine and Dickerson Wright, Wake Forest parents who were founding partners of the Office of Personal and Career Development.
Katherine Wright — who is a University Trustee and also serves on the Wake Will Campaign CORE Committee and the Wake Will Campaign California Bay Area Regional Committee — said the presidential chair will allow students to experience a broader approach to their careers as entrepreneurship continues to enhance the technology sector. “The skills learned in a computer science class transcend all disciplines. Whether it is business, the sciences, humanities, engineering, law, or medicine, computer science skills provide another layer of competency,” Wright said.
She sees Doyle’s direction and support as a great benefit to the students at Wake Forest. “Dr. Doyle possesses a rare combination of extraordinary technical skills, academic accomplishments, and more than 20 years of applied experience as a leader and innovator at companies like IBM and CA Technologies,” Wright said. “Wake students will undoubtedly benefit from Dr. Doyle’s unique perspective and his commitment to equipping the next generation of computer scientists with the skills to face some of the world’s most complex problems.”
Doyle’s approach relies on establishing a set of skills, no matter what discipline the student is studying, and creating innovative strategies regardless of the size of the company or client they eventually work for. “I have led numerous incubation projects from beginning to launch as well as advised tech startups and venture capitalists. The scale differs but the key ingredients and approaches are quite similar,” Doyle said.
Department Chair Pete Santago said he is looking forward to ways Doyle introduces business interests that align with many of the Computer Science students and also connects Wake to state-of-the-art information technology. “Ron will offer workshops for students and faculty that will allow them to take advantage of Ron’s experience. They will be tailored to our specific needs in education and research. Some of these workshops can be expanded to allow deeper learning and experience for participants and actual computer science courses,” Santago said.
Specifically, Professor Jennifer Burg in the Department of Computer Science welcomes Doyle’s extensive development and customer experience in such areas as DevOps, cloud computing, virtualization, automated provisioning, middleware deployment, content distribution, and content management. “He can help students see the bigger picture of industry job opportunities and learn how to identify technology choices, trends, trade offs, and applicability for differing requirements, both functional and environmental,” Burg said.
It’s not just the students that Doyle will impact, said Associate Professor William Turkett. He sees Doyle’s addition to the Computer Science faculty as a boon for the future of the program. “Ron’s insights will be used to help shape our future curriculum choices, allowing us to further enrich our students’ educational experiences in preparation for future careers,” he said.
Dan Cohen, Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship and the John C. Whitaker, Jr. Executive Director of The Center for Entrepreneurship, anticipates Doyle becoming “a trusted technology mentor” whose background is an example of “the quintessential practitioner/scholar.”
“Most startups raising capital and getting attention now are tech startups. Many Wake Forest students have creative ideas for startups. Most, though, need help with the software or hardware development, and Ron’s background will add immediate value to our students,” Cohen said.
Doyle already began his duties as the Katherine and Dickerson Wright Presidential Chair in Computer Science and Entrepreneurship this spring, meeting with both programs this term.