Diane Riggs Retires

August 31, 2010

Graduate students thank Diane Riggs for her service

When Diane Riggs first entered the shiny new Levine Science Research Center in 1996, half the offices were empty and the Department of Computer Science was home to only 43 graduate students. Today, that number has more than doubled, and each and every one of those graduate students has been welcomed and helped by Diane Riggs, Graduate Program Coordinator extraordinaire. This summer, Riggs retires after 15 years of service to the Department. "It's hard to imagine the CS graduate program without her," says Professor Jeff Chase.

Diane Riggs

Riggs settled into campus in 1996 as dual assistant to both the Directors of Undergraduate Studies and Graduate Studies. "I was impressed with the Department's vision at the time -- a commitment to excellence," recalls Riggs. That year, she planned the first ever diploma ceremony for CS graduates and the Department's first regional ACM Programming Contest, still held annually at Duke. "She organized very well and kept track of everything," says Professor Emeritus Robert Wagner, the Director of Graduate Studies at the time. In 2000, Riggs gave up her dual role to become exclusively the Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

Over the years, Riggs has read more than 2,500 applications, helped over 200 students through the process of applying for and attending graduate school in the Department, and served on various departmental committees, including coordinating the Department's fledgling Industrial Partners Program under the direction of Professor Richard Lucic. The name and logo she coined for the TechConnect event in 1997 are still in use today. "The position was ever-changing," says Riggs. "It kept me interested."

"Saying that Diane understands student finances or admission standards or industrial opportunities for students and faculty is an understatement," says Department Chair Carlo Tomasi. "She was instrumental in defining some of the ground rules of these and other aspects of life in our department and at Duke."

"She does magic," adds Professor Jun Yang, the current DGS. "Even when I think I've forgotten something, everything is always taken care of. We'll miss her."

In 2002, the University honored Riggs with a Presidential Meritorious Award for her work. "Diane is incredibly dedicated," says Chase, who served as DGS from 2002 to 2008. "She has great attention to detail and is truly concerned about the students and faculty here."

Though her retirement was official in June, you may still catch a glimpse of Riggs around the LSRC. "It's the strangest retirement," laughs Riggs, who will stay on this fall as a project coordinator to develop automation systems for the graduate program, and to train her successor, Marilyn Butler. When she finally embraces a full retirement, Riggs plans to move to Asheville, NC, to be near to family and her grandchildren.

But Duke will always be dear to this dedicated member of the CS community. "I was privileged to be here," says Riggs. "Most of all, I take away the memory of the students that have passed through here. It has been a sense of accomplishment to watch their growth."