Generations: Meet Dr. James Foley

Generations: Meet Dr. James Foley

This Q&A was originally published in the ACM SIGGRAPH Member Profiles. Dr. James Foley is Professor Emeritus at Georgia Tech, which he joined in 1991 to found the Graphics, Visualization and Usability (now GVU) Center.

1.  What was your first job?

My very first job was as a lifeguard. My first post-PhD job, surprisingly, was not in computer graphics but managing a group doing automotive assembly line automation.


2. Where did you complete your formal education?

I earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University, and MSEE and PhD in Computer, Information and Control Engineering from the University of Michigan. At Michigan I took a computer graphics course from Bert Herzog. I was hooked.


3. How did you first get involved with ACM SIGGRAPH?

Hard to remember how I first got involved, perhaps by teaching 1 and 2 day graphics courses for SIGGRAPH in the early 1970s. I organized an “Introduction to Computer Graphics” workshop for the 1974 Boulder Graphics Conference – the first SIGGRAPH conference. I was SIGGRAPH Vice Chair from 1974-76, and Vice President from 2009 to 2011.


4. What is your favorite memory of a SIGGRAPH conference?

At SIGGRAPH 1980 in Seattle, Loren Carpenter’s fractal-based “Vol Libre” video received a standing ovation. It was absolutely stunning.


5. If you could have dinner with one living or non-living person, who would it be and why?

Pierre Bézier, because he is one of the few computer graphics pioneers whom I never met.


6. What is something most people don’t know about you?

I had model trains when I was a kid ( and still do: now they’re just bigger, (


7. From which single individual have you learned the most in your life? What did they teach you?

Actually, two people. From my Dad I learned to be kind to everyone. From my Mom, I learned persistence – without which the books I co-authored would never have seen the light of day.


8. Is there someone in particular who has influenced your decision to work with ACM SIGGRAPH?

Bob Dunn, who was SIGGRAPH chair in 1974-75, recruited me.


9. What can you point to in your career as your proudest moment?

Receiving the 1997 Steven Anson Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics.


Be part of SIGGRAPH 2018: Generations, 12-16, 2018 in Vancouver. Registration opens Spring 2018.

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