Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Burton J. Smith, SM ’68, EE ’69, ScD ’72

Seattle, Washington

  • December 19, 2017

Coming to MIT for his graduate studies from the University of New Mexico was challenging for Burton J. Smith, who is now a successful computer architect. After he initially failed his oral qualifying exam in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), his advisor, Al Drake, suggested he improve his presentation skills by doing some teaching. Smith got good enough at that to win EECS’s premier teaching award for graduate students. “[EECS showed me] how to learn, how to teach, how to be technically creative, and how much fun I was going to have for the rest of my life,” he says.

Smith, a technical fellow at Microsoft with expertise in parallel and high-performance computing, decided to give back by helping graduate students whose undergraduate institutions are underrepresented in EECS. “I wanted to encourage people like me to attend MIT in spite of their educational background,” he says. His gift honors his former mentor with the establishment of the Alvin W. Drake Fellowship Fund. “Professor Drake took care of me as my advisor and helped me keep faith in myself in spite of adversity,” he says. Smith hopes his gift will encourage graduate students to choose MIT “as a friendly and caring place that believes in their abilities and potential.”

Help MIT build a better world.

This story is part of the January/February 2018 Issue of the MIT News magazine
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

For information, contact David Woodruff: 617-253-3990; daw@mit.edu.
Or visit giving.mit.edu.

AI is here.
Own what happens next at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
Next in MIT News
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.