“I started regular teaching when I was in high school,” he said. “My senior year, one of the teachers came down with cancer mid-year and I got sworn in to teach geometry and trig because there wasn’t anyone else around to do it.”
Brooks started UNC’s computer science department and has worked with its faculty, staff and students since the 1960s.
“Fred founded the department in the mid 1960s, and it is probably very difficult to believe this, but at the time, the notion of forming a free-standing computer science department at a liberal arts university was unheard of,” Kevin Jeffay, chairperson of the Department of Computer Science, said.
“So for that reason we are actually the second oldest computer science department in the country. So it was actually a bit of an experiment, and obviously one that worked very well.”
Aside from founding the computer science department at UNC, Brooks also receieved the 1999 A. M. Turing Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of computer science.
“It’s the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in computer science, so he’s internationally recognized as one of the brilliant computer scientists of our time,” Jeffay said.
Despite his achievements, Jeffay said he is very humble.
“He’s very modest and generous, always giving the credit to his students and to his collaborators,” he said. “He’s a wonderful colleague.”