In Memoriam Kenneth Clem Sevcik

It is with great sadness that we report that Professor Kenneth C. Sevcik passed away on October 4, 2005. Ken received his B.S. in 1966 from Stanford University and his Ph.D. in 1971 from the University of Chicago. Ken joined the faculty at the University of Toronto in 1971, and was Chair of the Department from 1990 to 1992. He also served as Director of the Computer Systems Research Institute (CSRI) and on the Governing Council of the University of Toronto.

Ken's work in performance evaluation has been called "an exemplar of experimental computer science." He was a founder of the field of computer system performance. He made influential contributions to both the theory and practice of computer system performance evaluation. His seminal work on queueing network models has had a lasting impact on industrial practice and provides a foundation for much of the performance research that has followed it. Database researchers know him for his work on grid files, an early multidimensional indexing technique that remains on the required reading list in most Ph.D. programs, and for his extensive work on database system performance. He was an early member of the ACM SIGMETRICS Board of Directors, the premier organization for the promotion of research in performance analysis. In 2004, he received the SIGMETRICS Achievement Award in recognition of a career devoted to sustained, long-lasting, and high-impact contributions to computer system performance evaluation in the technical, leadership, and mentoring dimensions. In his career at the University of Toronto, he graduated over 50 M.Sc. and 20 Ph.D. students in performance evaluation, parallel processing and database systems. His students have in turn produced a large and distinguished family tree that includes more than 200 Ph.D. offspring as of 2004.

Writing in connection with Ken's 60th birthday celebration in 2004, four of his early students said, "Ken managed to be our friend as well as our advisor, without letting either of those relationships interfere with the other. This is at the heart of the immense respect we have for him, both professionally and personally. In the final tally, how well one has done as an advisor is reflected in how much one's students have learned. We owe Ken a terrific debt for the lessons he gave us about performing and leading research, and about how to lead our lives."

Ken was an exceptional mentor, an exceptional academic, and a man of profound wisdom. He leaves a tremendous hole in our group and our hearts.

For those looking for a reminder of Ken's unique voice and intellect, we recommend a look at a recent interview.

Written Memories

A collection of memories written for the March 24, 2006 reception to honor Ken's life. We are still updating and maintaining this collection of memories, so if you have additional contributions, please do send them in to Renee Miller (email is miller at the same domain as Ken's).


Ken was universally respect in the SIGMETRICS community, and was awarded the SIGMETRICS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.
An academic tribute appeared in ACM SIGMETRICS Performance 2006.
ACM has recently approved the naming of the Kenneth C. Sevcik Outstanding Student Paper Award. The award is presented annually at the ACM SIGMETRICS Conference and given to a paper selected from among all conference submissions. The primary contributor to the paper must be a student.

Memorial Gift

The Ken Sevcik Bursary in Computer Science at the University of Toronto is an undergraduate scholarship given annually to an outstanding undergraduate interested in computer systems. The scholarship is endowed. Information on how to contribute to this fund is available here.

Ken's home page is available here.