Jim des Rivières was an exemplary mentor and teacher throughout a career that spanned academia and industry. He showed everyone who had the good fortune to work with him how to patiently make sense of a complex new idea and then wrangle it into a cogent presentation that others can follow.
Some notable examples of how he used his talents as a collaborator, teacher, and writer to clarify emerging ideas and then bring them to a broader audience:
- While working at the Carleton University computer centre Jim co-authored the CP-6 Pascal compiler, which not only enabled students of all levels to master Pascal programming but was designed to show advanced students how a large program can be structured and readable. He created the NEST, Charts, and Tree-Charts compiler construction tools which were used in teaching and research.
- Jim used the (then) recently-published Lambda research papers as the primary materials for a course at Carleton, engaging his students in understanding and building on current research. This work led to two new CS courses: 3007 Programming Paradigms and 5001 Foundations of Programming Languages.
- While at Xerox PARC, Jim helped define and popularize the concept of a meta-object protocol and developed one of the first implementations of computational reflection — an interpreter and run-time compiler for 3-Lisp.
- At OTI and IBM Jim’s thoughtful discussions and recommendations on how to design and evolve complex Java APIs helped guide the development of Eclipse.
The Jim des Rivières Award for Teaching Innovation and Excellence Fund will award a selected faculty member, professor or instructor every three years in recognition of their educational impact. This fund will provide recipients the opportunity to enhance, innovate and expand their teaching practice which may include the purchase of specialized materials, equipment or resources.
This fund has been endowed by colleagues, friends and family in memory of Professor Jim des Rivières, who touched their lives through his teaching, research, and generosity.
Jim could always be found at Carleton’s annual Live Butterfly Show where his large-scale moth or butterfly images were the backdrop for many photographs taken by families who attended over the years. Donors may also choose to honour his legacy by supporting the Butterfly Show Fund.