Alumni Achievers

Ed Whitehorne (B.S. 1972)

One of the Department's First Graduates, He Now Mentors Start-ups

When Ed Whitehorne was an undergraduate in computer science, the department was quite different than it is today. His work and education allowed him to witness first-hand the rapid evolution of computing technology.

Born in Richmond, VA, Whitehorne moved to High Point, NC, at age five, where he lived with his family until traveling to NC State to pursue a degree in computer science. He says he knew what he wanted to do from an early age - at age nine or ten he knew he was interested in computers - and set his course.

Whitehorne recalls that he was in one of the first classes to graduate in computer science. At the time, computer science was a part of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (PAMS.) Most of the computer science faculty were young - not much older than many of the students - and research was focused on the undergraduate students because the department did not have a graduate program.

Many students and faculty were interested in natural language processing and artificial intelligence, which were hot topics in the industry. Whitehorne also remembers that the department's only interactive terminal was limited to one teletype running at 110 baud - it could be found in the basement of Dabney Hall. He says thought he had "died and gone to heaven" when the department acquired an IBM 27-41 Selectric typewriter terminal that ran at 300 baud.

During his senior year, Whitehorne was president of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). At the time, he was having difficulty recruiting officers and he remembers asking a fellow computer science student, Debbie Hall (B.S., 1972), to serve as an officer. The two began dating and a true computer science romance blossomed. The two married a month after graduation and several of the faculty attended the ceremony, including Dr. Alan L. Tharp who served as department head for 12 years, through June 2004.

Whitehorne earned a master's degree in computer science from Duke University in 1973 and then returned to NC State to pursue a doctorate in operations research. He continued to work for the U.S. Forest Service in the Biometric Group until 1978, when he left to head up the IT group at Family Health International (FHI), a non-profit organization that does research in maternal and child healthcare, HIV and family planning in the third world.

In the early 1980's, before the advent of the PC, FHI developed software for clinical trials that ran on Texas Instruments mini-computers. These computers were placed around the world to aid in the collection and analysis of statistical and epidemiological data integral to FHI's research. This data was stored and transported on 8-inch floppy disks. Today, Whitehorne serves on the board of directors of Family Health International.

In 1986, Whitehorne was one of the founders of a company spun off from FHI, called Clinical Research International. Whitehorne stayed with this company until he retired for the first time in 1992. His short-lived retirement allowed him to spend more time with his family, a period in his life which he cherishes greatly.

After only a year and half of retirement, Whitehorne was lured back into the workforce by an exciting managerial challenge - serving as president and CEO of Clinical Trials Support Services, a company experiencing difficulty in their market. He brought them out of their financial and operational hardship.

Whitehorne then retired again and began investing in private companies. Soon after, he joined forces with four others who had similar interests, forming CI Partners, an organization designed to mentor early stage start-up companies by investing their intellectual capital as well as their financial resources.

Whitehorne says he enjoys the opportunity to work with young minds and emerging technology, and has worked with many graduates of NC State computer science department. He serves on the Board of Directors for ChannelAdvisor, a company founded by Scot Wingo (M.S., 1992 ) and was an early investor in Ganymed, a company founded by Tim Huntley (B.S., 1989) and Steve Joyce (B.S., 1983) as well as Lips Inc., a company which has its roots in the Department of Computer Science.

Looking back on his educational experiences and career choices, Whitehorne notes that "a degree in computer science teaches you how to think, teaches you how to approach solving problems, and can make it easier for you to work in a variety of other domains."

Because computer science is such an ever-changing field and there is always something moving forward, Whitehorne recognizes the need to stay up-to-date on emerging technology. Staying involved with technology companies, board meetings, and young technologists enables him to do just that.

Ed and Deborah Whitehorne reside in Apex and have two children.

- posted 2002 - Ken Tate-

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