In Support of Faculty
When UC Santa Barbara Foundation Trustee David Henke ’78 was a student, the university did not have a formal computer science department. An academic advisor gave David the best advice he had ever received: to take as many computer science classes as possible in his senior year. That moment led David to a 40-year career as an architect, programmer, founder, and senior manager in the software and internet industries. Now, the National Research Council consistently ranks the UC Santa Barbara Department of Computer Science in the top ten nationally. To continue this trajectory, David has established the Alferness-Henke Endowed Chair in Computer Science.
The UC Santa Barbara Department of Computer Science prepares students for productive careers by providing an outstanding environment for teaching and research. The department brings computational approaches and solutions to some of society’s most vital and complex challenges. From energy efficiency to quantum computing to the evolving relationships between society, art, and technology, computer science is at the center of a whirlwind of change and innovation.
At first, David’s primary relationship to UC Santa Barbara was as a recruiter of recent graduates. LinkedIn, where David served as a senior vice president, went from 200 to 2,700 engineers in four years. Thirty-five percent of those hires came straight from universities. David advocated for UC Santa Barbara students. This collaboration of university and industry would become a hallmark of his involvement.
“The computer science and engineering departments worked on projects that interested us, and the students were collaborative not just with each other but also with other departments and universities,” said David.
David has served on the College of Engineering Dean’s Cabinet since 2013, through which he developed a close partnership with Rod Alferness, former dean of the College of Engineering.
“Rod came from industry, like I did, and it was really clear that he cared about the university,” said David. “He would bring in experts to talk about science, but he also would ask our opinions. He was very good at listening, commenting, agreeing, and disagreeing. We had this productive relationship for many years, and it has been important to me. That’s why I wanted to honor Rod Alferness with this endowed chair.”
Alferness and David share mutual admiration and respect. The former dean appreciates his close partnership with David.
“The College of Engineering has benefited tremendously from David’s decades of experience and support. When I was dean, I treasured the ability to build close relationships with our alumni and friends. To share UC Santa Barbara’s vision for the College of Engineering and see our donors help realize it is fulfilling. Our partnership is a true testament to the spirit of multidisciplinary collaboration that characterizes the College of Engineering and enables so many important discoveries to emerge,” said Alferness.
Computer science excites David because it’s a field that can help everybody.
“My son is a professor of economics at Howard University. All his research is based on huge data sets that he has to score, evaluate for validity, and model, and that’s where computer science comes in. You can substitute economics for any other field. Computers are the heart, a key capability that every field of study needs to succeed,” said David. “One of the things we learned at LinkedIn was that an organization is only as good as its employees, and therefore, employees are the top priority. The professors at UC Santa Barbara make the university, so I chose to support an endowed chair in a field that interests me.”
“Faculty create a dynamic scientific community where excellence thrives. Our professors teach students, mentor researchers, and make discoveries. For the College of Engineering to assure its competitive edge, long-term viability, and role as a global leader in research and education, it must attract the brightest faculty — and endowed chairs help us do just that. They are vital for the future of the College of Engineering, and we are so grateful for David’s support,” said Tresa Pollock, Interim Auhll Dean and ALCOA Distinguished Professor of Materials.
David follows the model of his father, a Montebello Unified School District teacher who taught for 39 years. His brother would go on to serve that district as superintendent.
“I’m a big believer in philanthropy,” said David. “The only reason I try to make money at this point is to give more money away, and education is my number one priority.”