A “Father of the Internet” Addresses Graduates

Issue Date: 
May 2, 2016

Vinton G. Cerf, a “father of the Internet,” codesigned the basic protocols (TCP/IP) and architecture of the Internet. He was the featured speaker at the University of Pittsburgh’s 2016 Commencement. The May 1 ceremony included the presentation of an honorary doctoral degree in science to Cerf. 

Since October 2005, Cerf has served as vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, where he contributes to global policy development and Internet expansion through advanced applications and new technology. His research interests include networking, general science, data management, and digital security, privacy, and abuse prevention. 

In December 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Cerf and his colleague, Robert E. Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. Kahn and Cerf were named the recipients of the ACM A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery in 2004 for their work on the Internet protocols; the Turing Award is sometimes called the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science.”

In November 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Cerf and Kahn the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their work; the medal is the highest civilian award given by the United States to its citizens. Cerf and Kahn also received the prestigious Japan Prize in April 2008, and Cerf, Kahn, and three others received the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering in 2013. Cerf was made an officer of the French Légion d’Honneur in December 2014.

Cerf is the former senior vice president of technology strategy for MCI Inc., a telecommunications company now part of Verizon. In this role, he was responsible for helping to guide corporate strategy development from the technical perspective. Previously, he served as MCI Inc.’s senior vice president of architecture and technology, leading a team of architects and engineers to design advanced networking frameworks, including Internet-based solutions for delivering a combination of data, information, voice, and video services for business and consumer use.

Before that, from 1986-1994, Cerf was vice president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives where he worked on information infrastructure and digital libraries. And, in an initial career stint at MCI, he served as vice president of MCI Digital Information Services from 1982-86, where he led the engineering of MCI Mail, the first commercial e-mail service to be connected to the Internet.

During his tenure from 1976-82 with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Department of Defense,  Cerf played a key role leading the development of Internet and Internet-related packet data transport and security technologies. His early career experiences included working at IBM and UCLA and serving as a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University.

His pioneering work has led to media attention, including appearances on The Colbert Report, as cohost of World Business Review, and on The NextWave with Leonard Nimoy.  In 1994, he was named among the year’s “25 Most Intriguing People” by People magazine.

Cerf was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Science Board in February 2013. He served as president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) from 2012-14. He also served as chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers from 2000-07 and as founding president of the Internet Society from 1992-95, later serving a term as chairman of its board.

Cerf is honorary chairman of the IPv6 Forum, dedicated to raising awareness and speeding introduction of the new Internet protocol. He served as a member of the U.S. Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee from 1997 to 2001 and has served on several national, state, and industry committees focused on cybersecurity. Cerf sits on the board of directors for the American Registry for Internet Numbers as chair, StopBadware (chair), the Marconi Society (vice chair), and on the Science Advisory Board for CosmosID. Cerf also sits on the Board of Associates of Gallaudet University.

He serves on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Advisory Committee and is a distinguished visiting scientist there, where his role includes the design and implementation of an interplanetary Internet. He served as chair of the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology during 2006-13. 

Cerf holds a Master of Science and PhD in computer science from UCLA and a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Stanford University. The recipient of many awards and commendations, he has received more than 20 honorary degrees.