University to Confer Honorary Degree in Recognition of Galil's Impact, Legacy

In recognition of his exceptional contributions, one of the country's oldest and most prestigious universities is awarding former Georgia Tech Dean of Computing Zvi Galil an honorary Doctor of Letters degree this month.

Columbia University, established in 1754, will honor Galil's profound impact on the academic community and his enduring legacy during a ceremony on May 15.

"I am thrilled and even floored," said Galil after learning about the recognition from Columbia. "I loved my work, colleagues, and students at Columbia. I am thankful to be chosen for this degree."

Galil worked at Columbia for 25 years, starting in 1982. He was chair of the computer science (CS) department from 1989 to 1994 and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science dean from 1995 to 2007. 

As dean, he spearheaded the establishment of Columbia's biomedical engineering department, now ranked in the top 10 nationwide. His tenure included naming the school and a 65 percent growth in faculty members from 92 to 152.

In 2008, Columbia University established the Zvi Galil Award for Student Life. The Columbia Society of Graduates presented Galil with its Great Teacher Award in 2009

"The 12-year Galil deanship ranks as the most successful in the school's then 143-year history," wrote Robert McCaughey in A Lever Long Enough: A History of Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science since 1864.

Galil was beloved by the students at Columbia University, who chanted, "Zvi! Zvi! Don't leave Columbia!" during his last graduation event at the university. They even created a life-size cardboard cutout of him to bring to meetings Galil couldn't attend.

After leaving Columbia, Galil spent two years as the president of Tel Aviv University in Israel before coming to Georgia Tech as the Dean of the College of Computing.

He led Georgia Tech's effort to create the Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) degree. OMSCS, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has 13,600 students and 11,000 alumni. The program was recently named the "Best Degree Program Ever" by Forbes.

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Galil is the Frederick G. Storey Chair in Computing and executive advisor for online programs in the college. He has fellowships with the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2020, the College of Computing Advisory Board established the Zvi Galil PEACE chair in his honor.

Galil holds an honorary degree from the University of Waterloo in Canada, which he earned in 2012.