Maria M. Klawe is a computer scientist and the fifth president of Harvey Mudd College, since July 1, 2006. Born in Toronto in 1951, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. She was previously Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University.
Biography — Klawe was born in Toronto. She lived in Scotland from ages 4 to 12, and then returned to Canada, living with her family in Edmonton, Alberta. Klawe studied at the University of Alberta, dropped out to travel the world, and returned to earn her B.Sc. in 1973. She stayed at Alberta for her graduate studies, and in 1977 she earned her Ph.D. there in mathematics. She joined the mathematics faculty at Oakland University as an assistant professor in 1977 but only stayed for a year. She started a second Ph.D., in computer science, at the University of Toronto, but was offered a faculty position there before completing the degree. She spent eight years in the industry, serving at IBM Almaden Research Center, in San Jose, California, first as a research scientist, then as manager of the Discrete Mathematics Group and manager of the Mathematics and Related Computer Science Department.
She and her husband Nick Pippenger then moved to the University of British Columbia, where she stayed for 15 years and served as head of the Department of Computer Science from 1988 to 1995, vice president of student and academic services from 1995 to 1998, and dean of science from 1998 to 2002. From UBC she moved to Princeton and then Harvey Mudd College. Previously a Canadian national, Klawe was among 5,996 persons who became citizens of the United States at a ceremony held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Thursday, Jan 29, 2009. Later in 2009, she joined the board of directors of the Microsoft Corporation.
In addition to her career as a scientist and academic, Klawe is well known for her water color painting. Klawe is an active volunteer and advocate for encouraging more women to enter STEM fields.
Awards and honors — Klawe was inducted as a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1996, a founding fellow of the Canadian Information Processing Society in 2006, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and a fellow of the American Mathematical Society, in 2012.
She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Ryerson Polytechnic University in 2001, the University of Waterloo in 2003, Queen’s University in 2004, Dalhousie University in 2005, Acadia University in 2006, the University of Alberta in 2007, the University of Ottawa in 2008, and the University of British Columbia in 2010.
She also served as the president of the Association for Computing Machinery from 2002-2004, and in 2004 won their A. Nico Habermann award.
Some of Klawe’s best-cited research works concern algorithms for solving geometric optimization problems, distributed leader election, and the art gallery problem, and studies of the effects of gender on electronic game-playing. She founded the Aphasia Project, a collaboration between UBC and Princeton to study aphasia and develop cognitive aids for people suffering from it, after her friend Anita Borg developed brain cancer. Klawe’s Erdős number is 1.
Advocacy for technical women — Klawe has been heavily involved with increasing the representation of women in STEM fields. In 1991, together with Nancy Leveson, she founded CRA-W (The Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research) and served as its first co-chair. She was also a personal friend of Anita Borg and served as the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology from 1996 to 2011.