First computer science department head Charles Vick passes away

Published: Oct 21, 2016 2:00:00 PM
Media Contact: Chris Anthony,, 334.844.3447

Charles Ralph Vick
Charles Vick

Charles R. Vick, the first department head of Auburn University’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, passed away on Oct. 15. He was 82 years old.

Vick joined Auburn’s electrical engineering faculty in 1981 and became head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering upon its creation in 1984, serving in that capacity until 1987. The department was renamed the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering in 1999.

“Charlie played an instrumental role in the formation of the department, guiding its direction during the early years,” said professor James Cross, who was hired by Vick in 1986 and served as department chair from 1996 to 2006. “He enjoyed immense success in bringing in external funding, particularly from the Department of Defense, and he had a tremendous impact on the lives of his students. His influence on this department cannot be overstated.”

Before coming to Auburn, Vick was the longtime director of data processing research and development at the Ballistic Missile Defense Advanced Technology Center in Huntsville. He began his career with the Department of the Army in 1964, working in research and development in the area of computer science and engineering. For his research contributions, he received one of the Army’s Research and Development Awards. Vick was also one of the earliest members of the Senior Executive Service, one of the highest ranking grades for civilians working in the government.

After leaving Auburn in 1987, Vick became president and CEO of Huntsville-based Optimization Technology Inc. During his tenure, he moved the company in the direction of ballistic missile defense and distributed and parallel computing before retiring in 2002. Chris McGraw, Optimization Technology’s current president and CEO, was a graduate student under Vick and came to work for him at OTI.

“He was instrumental in training and launching the careers of many of those lucky enough to be under his tutelage,” McGraw said. “I, for one, owe everything to him, in terms of any success I've had in my career.”

Vick graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oklahoma City University in 1965 before completing graduate coursework at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He earned his doctorate in electrical engineering at Auburn University in 1979 and received an Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1992.

Born in Missouri, Vick grew up in Clinton, Kentucky and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1953-56 before receiving an honorable discharge.

Vick’s full obituary can be found here