SOC Bob Kessler Passes

July 13, 2021

University of Utah School of Computing professor Robert R. Kessler, co-founder of the No 1-ranked Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) video game development program at the U, and esteemed colleague, passed away on July 8, 2021.

“Without Bob there would be no EAE. I’m not sure I’d be a professor without his support, and I know that the hundreds of game developers out there who studied under him would say the same about their careers,” said EAE co-founder and associate director, Roger Altizer. “The U, EAE, it’s students, faculty, and staff all know that we owe so much of our happiness and success to Bob. Some shoes are hard to fill, his will be impossible to do so.”

Kessler earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in computer science in 1974, 1977, and 1981 respectively, all from the University of Utah. He became part of the faculty at the School of Computing in 1983, where his early work centered on the portable implementation of the Lisp programming language and then distributed and parallel implementations of Lisp.

In the early 90s, Kessler founded the Center for Software Science, a state of Utah Center of Excellence, which was a research group working in nearly all aspects of system software for sequential and parallel/distributed computers. In the late 90s, he served as chairman of the Department of Computer Science (which became the School of Computing in 2000). He was one of the very first researchers to explore pair programming and its potential in software engineering. He also dabbled in agent technologies.

In 2007, he co-founded and ran the Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) program, a video games emphasis for undergraduates. It then became an official program in 2010, with its own master’s degree.  In 2017, EAE added a BS in Games degree. Over the years, the program has been consistently ranked in the top 5 best video game design programs in the world and achieved No. 1 three times, according to the Princeton Review rankings. His insight and vision in creating EAE fixed the University of Utah as one of the world leaders in the discipline of games.

He authored two books, over 75 journal and conference publications, and received over $16 million in external funding. He founded two startup companies and was on several corporate boards. He was an award-winning teacher having received the College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award in 2000 and the University of Utah’s highest teaching honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001, and the IEEE Computer Society Computer Science and Engineering Undergraduate Teaching award in 2019. He began his phased retirement in 2009.

Through his work he had a great, positive impact on the dozens of staff members and faculty that had the privilege to work for him and the thousands of students that learned from him. Bob was a beloved teacher for 38 years and will be greatly missed.

Click here to read tributes and memories from faculty and students.

Click here to read a tribute from EAE about Bob.

Click here to read the family tribute about Bob and information to donate to the Kessler Family Scholarship Fund.