Memorial for Denis Anthony Conrady

Denis Anthony Conrady, 1953

Always the professor, Denis Anthony Conrady passed his final test peacefully on Monday evening, June 13, 2011 at home with his family by his side. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Catherine Frisz Conrady; a daughter, Denise Conrady of Terre Haute, Indiana, and a son, David and his wife, Catherine DeMange Conrady of Hopewell Junction, New York; grandson Thomas Conrady of Stuttgart, Germany, and Alexandre Conrady of Genesseo, New York; sisters Mrs Joan Lingg of Connersille, Indiana, and Mrs. Fran (Jack) Conners of New Richmond, Ohio; sisters-in-law Mrs. Barbara Frisz Wilson of Terre Haute and Mrs. Cecile Frisz (Jim) Feeney of Fallbrook, California and many nieces and nephews.

Denis Conrady had a great influence on many students in the Computer Science Department. This memorial includes just a token of the comments about this consumate professor. He will be greatly missed by his many generations of students.

Denis Anthony Conrady, 1931
Denis was born on December l, 1930, to John and Elvira Frey Conrady, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School in Connersville, Indiana; St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Indiana; St. Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio; graduated with distinction from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland and immediately went into the Air Force.

Denis and Catherine Conrady, 1954

While in the Air Force, he earned a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT, Cambridge, Massachusettes, and a PhD in Computer Science from Case University in Cleveland, Ohio. His other tours included Keesler AFB, Massachusettes; a remote radar site on the Bering Sea in Alaska; Patrick AFB, Cape Canaveral, Florida; the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was the first to teach Computer Science and finally, Hanscom AFB, Massachusettes. After retirement from the Air Force, he taught Computer Science at North Texas State University in Denton, Texas (later renamed the University of North Texas), for many years and moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2003.

He was a member of SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Singing in America) for 58 years. The Society is now called the Barbershop Harmony Society. He sang with many quartets and choruses, but his favorite was the Vocal Majority of Dallas, Texas, having won ten international gold medals with them. The joy this music gave to him and those who listened was tremendous. Catherine and Denis enjoyed traveling the world during his careers and in retirement.

Denis and Catherine Conrady's Second Honeymoon

Denis Conrady 1979

Denis Conrady visiting Discovery Park in 2008 with Tom Irby

Denis Conrady's Students Remember Him

Thirty years ago I took my first ever computer science class with Dr. Conrady. I had no known aptitude for it, or interest in it, beyond my suspicion that it might be a more practical choice than another music degree - my only other alternative. I had no idea what Dr. Conrady was talking about for the first half of the semester. With any other professor I would have dropped the class. But he was so charismatic, and interesting to listen to, and just plain fun, that I kept coming back. Eventually, he unlocked something in my head that made it all click, and I never looked back. He remained my guiding light throughout my graduate computer science studies. But despite his scientific brilliance, it was mostly his charm and humor that made that whole experience a very happy time of my life.

I've thought about him, and talked about him, many times in the intervening decades. My condolences to the family - but I will always remember Dr. Conrady with happiness that I was able to know him.

He was gentle and humble, but he was still just a little larger than life. — Howard Soroka

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Conrady back in the very early 90's when I signed up for his introductory programming class. Even though there were over a hundred students in his class, I and a fellow student from Germany spent many afternoons with Dr. Conrady during his office hours. Much of that time was spent working out solutions to programming problems, but much was also spent discussing the really important topics of life: music, barber shop quartets, and our mutual hero the great Texas icon Molly Ivins.

This was a very productive and exciting time for me. Under Dr. Conrady's instruction I worked harder and learned more in that one short semester than at any other time in my academic life. I went to sleep thinking about problems of logic, and would wake up the next morning with a solution. Every day events such as standing in a grocery line, baking a pie, or mowing a lawn were seen through the filters of loops, subroutines, linked lists, and binary trees. Running around the Fouts field track became less about endurance and more of an exercise in the logic of loops and counters. Musical form came to reveal itself as a series of events running within subroutines: Begin - Play the head - Jump to the bridge - Back to the head - Repeat - Exit.

It should be noted that Dr. Conrady's class wasn't for the faint of heart. He would offer you every tool in his arsenal to succeed but you would have to work for it. Test time was no exception. I would study long hours in preparation for these tests and would still never feel ready. One day of testing was particularly notable. After a long sleepless night I sat down running only on adrenalin and began the test. About three quarters of the way through this I was pulling my hair out and beginning to panic wondering how I was going to finish this thing. It was then that a door opened and the light came shining in. Rather than being the salvation that I craved though, this was in fact a surprise birthday entourage for Dr. Conrady, complete with lit birthday cake, noise makers, balloons, and people. Lots of people. You could hear pencils breaking all around the room. The always thoughtful Dr. Conrady quickly thanked the well wishers and moved everyone out, but not before graciously accepting a piece of cake. A great man always has his priorities and always takes care of his friends.

During my life I've had the pleasure of knowing some truly gifted individuals. Some were great musicians, others were brilliant engineers, others were motivating teachers, and still others were great humanitarians. Denis Conrady, the barber shop quartet vocalist with the handle bar mustache was especially unique in that he was all of these. Even though I only studied with him one short semester, his thoughtful generosity and humor I will remember for life. Though his passing is regrettable, I'm thankful for the time we all had with him. — Bruce Berg

Hi my name is Nanette de Hoyos E. and I studied my Master's Degree at UNT. I went to UNT as a Fulbright student, and I am from Mexico City. I studied there from 1990 - 1992.

I remember Dr. Conrady very well, he was my professor in the class "Teaching Computer Science" and he was the first one who invited us (all the students) to his house. It was a very good opportunity for me to get to know the "American way" of working with students, and also a chance to interact with the other professors and international students.

The dresses from India specially caught my attention at this time, since they were so beautiful and colorful.

I will specially remember Dr. Conrady for the warm welcome he provided to all of us international students and TA's. — Nanette de Hoyos E.

I was a Master's student during Dr. Conrady's tenure at UNT between 1985 and 1988. He was one of the first professors that I really had a relationship with, largely because I had just separated from the US Air Force and I am a graduate of the US Air Force Academy. As luck would have it, Dr. Conrady was a major force in the creation of the Department of Computer Science (actually a "sub-department" under the umbrella of the Math Department) and we spent many hours just talking about my experience there. I remember him with a smile under that big mustache ... a friendly face is always welcome in an academic institution.

I guess my fondest memory of him was in my next to last semester of my Master's study. I was enrolled in a "Research Paper in Lieu of Thesis" class. I had met with my assigned faculty member during the first week of the semester and then was unsuccessful in contacting him for months. I (and dozens of other students) had left message upon message on his door using tape or sticky notes. I had even gone to the office on several occations and had the admin staff leave messages for him. They assured me that he did wander in from time to time. So, with less than a month to go in the semester, I saw Dr. Conrady (who was the acting Department Chair at the time). I asked him if HE had seen my professor lately and he told me that the man had resigned less than a week after the start of the semester ... why did I want to see him? When I relayed my story to him, his face turned red and he said, "Not another one! Can nobody at this institution keep track of registered students!" He then walked me to the Department office and told me to talk to Dr. Swigger. As the doors closed behind me, I heard him raise his voice at the admin staff ... the only time I saw him lose his cool.

He will be missed ... he has been missed. My most sincere condolences go out to Dr. Conrady's family. — Pat Burke, PhD Candidate, CSCE, UNT

I will always remember Dr. Conrady with his great smile, his elegant personality, and his being always helpful.

When I was a Ph.D. student and a teaching assistant in the Computer Science Department during (1990-1993), I had the chance to work with Dr. Conrady. I was teaching 2 sections of an introductory CS course coordinated by Dr. Conrady. We used to have regular weekly meetings with all the instructors teaching the same course. At each meeting I learned such things from Dr. Conrady that I will never forget throught my entire academic life. He informed us about how to be a good teacher.He gave us hints about how to deal with problematic students. He told us that every exam question in an exam is equally important. And many other things I have been following since then.

I was a Ph.D. student of Dr. Kathy Swigger. Dr. Swigger and I wrote a paper for a conference to be held in Antalya, Turkey. Before we go to Turkey, I told Dr. Conrady that I am going to Turkey for a week. He asked me if I have ever been to Turkey before. I couldn't decide if he was joking or he was serious. Because I was the only Turkish assistant in the department. But, appearently, Dr. Conrady thought that I was Greek. This has always been a joke among us. I keep smiling whenever I remember this. — Ferda Nur Alpaslan, METU Computer Engineering Department, Ankara, TURKEY

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 30 years since I completed my studies in computer science at UNT, and while I never had the pleasure of seeing Denis again after I left, I still fondly recall several interactions with him. I remember Denis as a very knowledgable and approachable person. He was the second supervisor of my MS thesis, and I vividly remember my thesis defense with him, more for the valuable advice and encouragement he gave me at the end of the defense than for the technical questions he asked about my thesis. I had ambitions to do my PhD at an elite university, and by the time of my defense I had been accepted to the PhD program at Stanford. I was still very intimidated at the prospect not just of doing a PhD, but of doing it at such a renowned institution. As a graduate of MIT, he shared his perspectives on life and studies at an elite university and made me feel that a PhD at Stanford was eminently achievable for me. He was right of course, and in the years since then I have never hesitated to take big risks in my career, including making the jump from industrial research to academia, leaving my first academic position to work in a startup company, and then accepting other academic positions in not just one but two foreign countries with substantially different university systems and academic cultures. My willingness to take such risks and aim for ever greater achievements is something I owe greatly to Denis's encouragement. — David S. Rosenblum

I met Dr. Conrady in June 1986.

I came from Lebanon in January of that year on a scholarship that Denis called funny. By the way, he used to tell me to tell people that he spells his first name correct. He considered me a good reference since I knew French and this how it is spelled in French. Before coming to the US I had 3 BS degrees, in Math, physics and computer science.

My scholarship was designed to give me time to learn English which was not needed, a year of course work which was silly and a year of practical training. Denis was the graduate coordinator at the time and he was supposed to prepare the course schedule for me.

When I met him, I found out that he didn't understand the way my transcripts were written, so he prepared a schedule that I didn't agree with. After we talked for a few minutes, he told me to pick anything I wanted.

In the next fall I took with him the computer language design course. This is when we started to be friends. At the end of that school year, my sponsor wanted me to go and find a job for practical training and stop studying. At that time I had finished 24 credits out of 36, so, Dr Conrady sent them a letter telling them how wrong they are for no avail. Finally he was able to convince them that to let me work in the university. This is when I became his assistance in a course of 100 students in the summer of 87. The next fall I became a teaching fellow.

Now I live in Maryland, I own a small consulting business with 15 employees and work as a contractor to the federal department of education. I owe a lot of my success to Denis Conrady. — Mohamad Sakr

I had his advanced topics Computer Science class back in 1977 or 78. We were afraid the class wouldn't 'make' but it hit the absolute minimum number - 10 students. Then by about the second week or so 8 of 'em dropped. So I completed the class along with my good friend Les Clark - practically a private seminar for the two of us. We were so grateful that he finished this class with us, we each named our final project (an Assembler for a made-up CPU) in his honor.

In the style of the day, using acronyms, mine was C.O.N.R.A.D.Y - Conrady's Own New Real Assembler Done by Yancey. Les's spelled out D.E.N.I.S, although I can't recall the acronym. — Mike Yancey

I worked a lot during college and usually didn't spend much personal time around classes. I wasn't so much shy as busy like most. But one day while we were waiting for everyone to show up, Dr. Conrady asked me what I was going to do for Spring Break. To me, it was a rare personal interest that was genuine and unexpected. Not the most interesting story, but it's something I've remembered almost 20 years later as something I really appreciated. — Bear Cahill

After I received my M.Sc. degree in Computer Science in 1984, I went to New York to work for a while and decided to go back to Hong Kong for good. Before the trip, I went to Temple in May to attend the wedding of my room-mate at UNT and decided to pass through Denton to visit my professors. I of course did not want to miss the chance of chatting with Dr. Conrady, one of my all-time favorites. During our conversation, he asked me whether I was interested to pursue a PhD degree. I told him that I was interested but had not applied as I was prepared to go back to my home country. He checked my GRE subject score and told me right there that I would be accepted with teaching fellowship support. Thus began my academic life as well as my marriage life since I also eventually married a fellow UNT student from my PhD year. It is not exaggerating to say that this wonderful teacher and person had changed my life. I am honored to be his student and will miss Dr. Conrady dearly. — Kwok-Bun Yue, Professor of Computer Science, University of Houston-Clear Lake, UNT MSc. 1984 and PhD 1988

I was in Dr. Conrady's class where we had to program in 5 different languages: PL/I, SNOBOL, Fortran, Assembler, RPG. It was a fairly difficult class and Conrady was a great teacher and an intelligent man. We called him Conrady outside of class. I can see his face with his handle bar mustache right now. He was high energy and funny. I know that he had good one liners but I cannot remember....darn!!! — Mary Alice "Cookie" Bullinger Tuttle

Who could forget that moustache? He was one of the first people I met in the CS department. Tried to convince me to do a Masters instead of a second Bachelors. I ignored him....wish I hadn't. Water under the bridge now. I wrote code for 10 years, got and MBA at UNT and moved into marketing. —James Snider

I was very fortunate to have Denis Conrady as a part of my very early career, both as a teacher, mentor, and fellow faculty member. When I first taught in the Computer Science Department, I was as a Teaching Fellow while I was still taking classes. I didn't know why at the time, but Denis befriended me early on, which was very surprising to me, as I felt like I had become friends with very few of my teachers in my many years of college. I remember one afternoon we were both sitting in a classroom after class and he started telling me about his family. I didn't know what to say as I was so struck by it; none of my teachers had ever confided in me anything personal. After knowing him for many years, and hearing from his students here, I now realize that was the way he was; genuine, sincere, and truly interested in you.

My best student-related story about Denis was when I was trying to finish my Masters Degree. I was required to take one hardware-related course. At the time it was called Digital Technology, and Conrady was teaching it. I struggled mercilessly in the class, as I truly hate hardware with a passion (just ask anyone that's had me in a class). As far as I was concerned, I was failing the class. About two-thirds of the way through the semester, late one afternoon when the back office area was quiet, I was standing with Denis and we were talking. I decided to make him a proposal.

I told him that I wasn't doing well in his class (as if he didn't already know it), and that I just wasn't getting it. I wondered out loud if he could just go ahead and give me a C for the course and leave it at that; otherwise I was going to have to ask him question after question after question in order for me to somehow understand the material well enough to pass. He was genuinely amused by my suggestion, agreeing that would make both of our lives easier, and that it was a generous offer since I only wanted a C, but he couldn't do it. So, for the rest of the semester, I tried to work hard, bothering him relentlessly for help, and still not understanding the material. When the semester ended, such enough, he gave me a C.

You'll note that I phrased it "he gave me a C". I did that on purpose. For many years after that, when Denis and I were together in social gatherings and stories were told, this was one of mine. When I finished telling it, he would ask me, "Don, what grade did you deserve?", and I would immediately reply: "Well, an F, of course!" But he still gave me a C. So much work on both of our parts; I don't know whether he really did go along with my offer or not; as my teacher, he wanted me to do the material anyway, which I still appreciate to this day. — Don Retzlaff, MS Computer Science 1979, Principal Lecturer, UNT

I had an entire Senior high school year of Pascal programming under my belt when I got to UNT in the Fall of 1994 to begin my Comp Sci degree. My first Freshman programming class was procedural Pascal taught by Dr. Conrady the last year before the department moved to object-oriented C++. I knew slightly less-than-nothing about my chosen field of study at the time. Dr. Conrady's bold, clear-spoken demeanor really clicked with me and made the immersion into programming a lot easier. His moustache was somewhere in-between Colonel Sanders and Gen. Custer at the time and impressive given that I couldn't grow even a cheap copy of it. I've long since changed my focus some, but still work in IT and met two of my longest-known friends who are still programmers today in that first college class. —  Joel Phillips, Information Technology Services, College of Arts & Sciences, University of North Texas

I came to UNT to play division I NCAA soccer and to have a world class Computer Science education. I was in the honors program as well. I was blessed to have taken AP computer science classes with two instructors and only four students with a wonderful HP-UX lab in my high school, and we competed in state and national contests.

I was offered to wave some classes during registration, but wouldn't get any credit for it. So, I decided to just go through the regular schedule. My very first class was Pascal programing with Dr. Conrady. Most had never programmed in their life, and I was bored to tears after having programmed for four plus years prior to college. After a couple of weeks, I went to visit Dr. Conrady to discuss the situation and determine if there were any other options. Instead of throwing me out of his office as some punk kid coming in to determine alternatives to his attendance policy (which I think was a painful 8 am class), he took the time to listen with keen interest about my unique background (now kids are 100 times move brilliant coming in than I was, but then it was quite rare thanks to the Commodore 64, Indus GT Disk Drive, and Turbo Pascal - Just to date me).

Over the next couple of weeks we designed an approach where incoming students with extensive programming experience could do an accelerated program for the first 12-14 hours of coursework. Unfortunately, I couldn't go through it, and I have no idea if it stuck at all. But I very often have shared that experience that building a strong logical approach to a problem in a framework that would benefit others, even if you don't directly benefit, can leave a legacy of which you can be proud.

To this day, that respect he showed me as an 18 year old kid contributed to me working several years in the UNT computer lab, earning a co-op at DSC Communications, and then being selected into the very first year of the Citibank Technology Associate executive training program. As a direct result, I was one of only two state school candidates selected in the country (one UT Austin and 34 others were Ivy Leagues) selected for executive program and to open the Citicorp Technology Center of Expertise in Object Oriented technologies in 2004. I've gone on to get my Masters Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University, my Executive MBA from Baylor, and teach and serve as a Resident Fellow in the Center for Finance, Strategy, Innovation at UTD's Executive MBA Program. A Corporate Performance Management Framework I developed served as the foundation for what has continued to evolve into the current capstone course of that program.

My current full time job is Managing Director of the Financial Services Center of Expertise at Experis (the newly formed professional services brand within Manpower Group - $20 Billion in 83 countries, putting over 4,000,000 people to work around the globe). Experis was recently formed by combining COMSYS, Jefferson Wells and PlumRHINO Consulting (where I was President). I share all of these things because without the incredible learning, continuous challenge, opportunity working in computer labs, co-op program, and support from the very first week from Dr. Conrady, I would have NEVER, EVER have been able to have seen the world, run 100+ million dollar critical banking programs, banking merger teams, and now teaching and trying to give some of it back... Dr. Conrady taught me that it isn't about breaking or even bending the rules when they don't line up the way you want... you can re-write them completely... as long as the context is about helping others vs just helping yourself!

Well I know this has been crazy rambling, but I was really compelled to respond to your note. I have told that story at least 500 times in the last 20 years, and he probably never had a clue about his impact on me personally or hopefully those behind me who participated in that accelerated program. I am sad that I didn't get a chance to go back, shake his hand, and say thank you for trusting and believing and caring about teaching and mentoring and building a better place for all of us. I have no doubt that thousands have been touched by him the way he touched my life and the University, and all of us were lucky to have him. I have so often wondered how and what he was doing, and have looked through every alumni communication hoping to see his name again.

May God bless him and keep him and his family through this difficult time... I look forward to seeing him on the other side of the pearly gates to say thank you and shake his hand! — Scott Mairs, BS Computer Science '93

I wish to thank everyone who responded to my note about Denis, and took the time to write your heart-felt notes about him. If others would like to respond, I will be more than happy to add them to this page. Please send your comments and stories to