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Wayne Russell ('77)

Alumnus Wayne Russell

Wayne Russell
Class of  ’77

I graduated from Virginia Tech in 1972 with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics. I was a co-op student at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) at Dahlgren, Virginia during my undergraduate days and later a full-time employee. Around 1974, Virginia Tech began a program at NSWC for graduate studies at Virginia Tech in computer science. The professors would fly in once a week to teach classes. I enrolled and began my program for a master’s degree in computer science from Virginia Tech at Dahlgren. I was approved for full-time study at Virginia Tech for the 1976-77 school year and completed my degree requirements in Blacksburg. I enjoyed going back to Blacksburg during that year.

My career began as a Fortran programmer with the Navy, but with my math and computer science background, I found new opportunities in office automation and network design. I was part of a team that built the first broadband network in the Navy’s Research and Development labs. I have worked in private industry with American Management Systems (AMS) in the 1980s and 90s doing network requirements analysis and systems analysis for many U.S. government agencies. After AMS, I worked for the Anne Arundel County Public Schools from 1995 to 2004 as the network manager and implemented networks in all 120 schools with several thousand computers.

After leaving Anne Arundel, I came back to the NSWC in 2004 and ended up managing the group that I left many years before. I was in charge of the RDT&E networks at the center that supported all engineers and scientists there. I retired in 2017 and now enjoy walking, gardening, photography, oil painting and golf. I exhibit my paintings at a gallery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

How did the department equip you for the real world?

When I first came to Virginia Tech in the fall of 1967, I signed up as a mathematics major. As far as the real world, that was a little abstract. I wasn't sure what type of work I wanted to do. When Dr. Gorsline came to Virginia Tech in 1967, I saw that he was teaching an Introduction to Computers class and I took that class in Spring 1968 in the trailer at the Duck Pond. He taught the basics of computers and also of programming. I wrote my first computer program in that class and entered it into the mainframe at Burruss Hall via punched cards. It was exciting to come back later and get a print out of my program and see that it worked. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a programmer and took many classes such as SNOBOL, SIMULA and SIMSCRIPT.  

By the time computer science became an official curriculum, I was well into my math degree, but I had taken more than 10 classes in computer science. It was not until I graduated in the master's degree program in computer science in 1977 that I realized having that degree helped me earn better pay and get more interesting, and complex jobs. That is how the department helped me and I also enjoyed the work that I did. 

Being a Virginia Tech alumnus means...

I have always been proud of being a Virginia Tech alumnus. It was the whole atmosphere of Virginia Tech with the mountains, football games, concerts, and academic challenges that I liked best. I could have gone to a number of other schools, but chose Virginia Tech and I am glad I did. The school helped propel me through my entire work career. 

My fondest memory of my time in the department is...

I enjoyed coming back for full-time study in 1976-77. Dr. Gorsline was still there and I enjoyed talking to him and appreciated his encouragement. He pushed me in his own way to do well and I will always remember that. I also enjoyed having a graduate cubicle in McBryde and working with the other graduate students who were there with me late into the evenings.

My favorite memory of George Gorsline is...

I guess it is when I first met him in that trailer at the Duck Pond. He was very funny and made the class very enjoyable. It was all new then, but he made me want to be a computer scientist and from that point on, and throughout my career, that is what I became. After taking his class, I enrolled in the co-op program with the Navy and used my skills there.

I met Grace Hopper at the Navy Lab when…

Well, working for the Navy and working in the IT and network division, it was just a natural thing. We knew that Grace Hopper was coming down for a briefing, I believe, in 1980 and many in the division wanted to see her and hear her talk about her career. It was quite inspirational and she gave everyone a wire about a foot or so long and she described that as a "nanosecond". She was iconic and it was a thrill to actually meet her.