In Memoriam: Stanley Eisenstat, Professor of Computer Science

Departments: Computer Science

Stanley Eisenstat, Professor of Computer Science, who taught computer science at Yale for nearly 50 years, died December 17, 2020, at the age of 76.

Eisenstat, who joined the Yale faculty in 1971, also served as an associate editor of the Journal of the ACM and served as a member of the editorial board of the SIAM Journal on Matrix Analysis and Applications. His major research interests included numerical linear and nonlinear algebra, direct and iterative methods for solving sparse linear systems, and parallel computing. 

"Stan held us all to a very high standard, whether through naming inconvenient truths in faculty meetings, or through his commitment to excellence in the classroom,” said Jeffrey Brock, Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “He was an unmatched steward of Yale's deepest values. We have lost an inspiring intellect, an unparalleled university citizen, and a dear friend.”

Eisenstat was well-known for teaching CPSC 323 (Introduction to Systems Programming and Computer Organization), a course that former students have described as difficult, but “legendary” for its comprehensiveness. He also designed, developed, and taught CPSC 223 (Data Structures and Programming Techniques). Zhong Shao, the Thomas L. Kempner Professor of Computer Science and department chair, said the two courses form “a big part of today's CS core curriculum and have become a signature feature of the CS education at Yale. He will be deeply missed by the entire Yale community.” Shao said Eisenstat “always put students' best interests first.”

“Stan has been a pillar of the Yale Computer Science department for the last 50 years,” Shao said. “His emphasis on fundamentals and rigor has inspired both his faculty colleagues and many generations of Yale CS alumni.”

Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, called Eisenstat “a legendary campus figure -- brilliant, generous, and meticulous.” 

“His devotion to students was unmatched; his commitment to the common good was unwavering,” she said. “His integrity, precision, and dedication were a model to us all. We were fortunate to have had him as a colleague.”

Avi Silberschatz, the Sidney J. Weinberg Professor of Computer Science, said his daily lunches with Eisenstat reflected the wide range of his friend’s knowledge and curiosity — they discussed everything from departmental issues to politics, history and physics.

“Given that I never took courses about USA politics and history, Stan taught me a lot about these subjects,” Silberschatz said. “I always left lunch with a greater understanding of whatever topic was discussed. He was a walking encyclopedia for Yale, the Computer Science department and its history. If I had a question about something about Yale or the department, he was able to thoroughly explain how we came to be where we are. He was a superb teacher. He was a man for all seasons. I am deeply saddened by his passing and I will miss my friend and colleague.”

In addition to his wife, Dana Angluin, who is also Professor of Computer Science at Yale, Eisenstat is survived by David Eisenstat of New York and Sarah Eisenstat of New Haven.

There will be no service, but his family suggested that those who wish to honor his memory make contributions to a favorite charity or cause. Ones that were important to him include Columbus House, Community Soup Kitchen, Connecticut Food Bank, and Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.