Ram Legacy: Wim Böhm

Portrait of Wim Bohm seated by a computer holding a laptop

Anton Pedro Willem Böhm, known to his colleagues and friends as “Wim,” stepped onto the Colorado State University campus in the spring of 1990 as a new professor in the Department of Computer Science. In the 30 years following that, Böhm made an immediate and lasting impression.

“His personal drive and intellect, along with good humor personally, impressed us all,” Rod Oldehoeft said, remembering the first time he met Böhm in 1985 at the University of Manchester. Oldehoeft, an emeritus chair and professor in computer science, saw something special in Böhm and recruited him to come to a faculty position at CSU.

Böhm developed strong relationships with his colleagues.

“Wim was very social and adventurous,” said Darrell Whitley, the former chair and professor of computer science and a longtime friend and colleague of Böhm. When thinking of his colleague, Whitley remembers stories of skiing, hiking, biking thousands of miles, and sharing food and wine with Böhm.

Böhm worked in the Computer Science Department up until he passed away in early 2021. His legacy lives on through the Wim Böhm Ph.D. Fellowship in Computer Science, a fellowship award for Ph.D. students.

A teacher and mentor

Böhm was known for being an excellent teacher and mentor.

“He really cared about students and worked hard to find intuitive examples to illustrate complex ideas,” said Whitley. “He had ideas about how to teach and examples that showed up years later in major textbooks.”

In addition, his enthusiasm in the classroom was contagious, according to those who knew him.

“Graduate students flocked to him as an advisor,” said Oldehoeft. “He was equally avid about teaching undergraduates.”

He encouraged the students who took his classes to think clearly and perform organized research, which in turn allowed them to be highly productive.  His talent and openness helped the department attract M.S. and Ph.D. students who wanted to work with him.

Leading edge research

Böhm’s research evolved through the years as the field of computer science continually changed. He had a strong foundation in computer languages, compilers, and algorithms. He continued to learn new computer languages as they were developed and used his knowledge to find solutions to emerging computer science challenges.

“Programming languages and compilers were Wim’s areas of research and expertise,” said Oldehoeft. “His research led to related work in embedded systems and the establishment of the Embedded Systems Lab in the computer science department.”

Supporting future generations

“Wim was extraordinary in all he did,” said Dean of the College of Natural Sciences Jan Nerger. “He was awarded the Board of Governors Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, federal grants for his research, and advised numerous students through their M.S. and Ph.D. programs. His desire and generosity in financially supporting senior-level graduate students was inspiring.”

Böhm, his wife Ann, and several of his graduate students created the Wim Böhm Ph.D. Fellowship in Computer Science to support Ph.D. students in their final year of study. This award allows the recipients to focus on their research and dissertations. When fully endowed, this award will continue his legacy of student support and forever commemorate his impact on the department.

Learn more about the scholarship and contribute.