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Kristian Hammond Named Inaugural Osborn Professor

Hammond is the first recipient of the new professorship honoring alumni Bill and Cathy Osborn

Northwestern Engineering's Kristian Hammond, Bill and Cathy Osborn Professor of Computer Science, discusses the dramatic progress in the rise of artificial intelligence, and why the change brought about by these technologies has only just begun.

Kristian J. Hammond has been named the inaugural Bill and Cathy Osborn Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University.

In 2017, members of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees made gifts to establish two endowed professorships to honor William A. Osborn (’69, ’73 MBA, ’18 H) and Cathleen Osborn (’72) in recognition of Bill’s retirement as board chair. The Osborns, along with many members of their extended family, graduated from Northwestern and are long-time supporters of the University. Hammond was named to the first of the two Osborn Professorships by Provost Jonathan Holloway this fall.

A professor of computer science at Northwestern Engineering, Hammond’s research is focused on artificial intelligence. He co-founded Narrative Science, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to turn raw data and information into natural language.

Kristian Hammond“We are thrilled that Kris has been chosen as the first Osborn Professor based on his pioneering work in AI,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering. “The endowed position provides critical support for our efforts in computer science and recognizes the profound impact that artificial intelligence has on our society.”

Hammond has been on the Northwestern faculty since 1999. He is the founding director of the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence program, which launched in September. His research centers on a broad scope of topics ranging from the future of work to ethics in artificial intelligence to conversational interfaces.

He also leads Northwestern’s CS+X initiative, examining how computers and computational thinking can partner with fields across Northwestern to transform education and research. As part of Northwestern’s commitment to expanding computer science, the University plans to hire 10 faculty jointly appointed in CS and another discipline.

“I am honored to receive this endowed professorship as we move Northwestern forward to lead in the expanding landscape of computer science,” Hammond said. “This recognition comes at a time when the study of AI and its impact is growing, both within society as well as among our students.”

The professorship is named for Bill and Cathy Osborn. Bill Osborn received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 1969, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in 1973. He worked at Northern Trust Corporation for 40 years, retiring as its chairman and chief executive officer. He is a director on a variety of boards, including Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar Inc., General Dynamics Corporation, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He joined Northwestern’s Board of Trustees in 1996, and served as chair from 2009 through 2017. In addition to being a charter trustee of the University, he currently serves on the Steering Committee for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, the Global Advisory Board of Kellogg, and the Board of Directors of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. In 2018, he was awarded an honorary degree from Northwestern.

Cathy Osborn received a bachelor of arts degree from Weinberg College in 1972. She has been a member of the Northwestern University Women’s Board since 1996. She is also a life trustee of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and a member of the women’s boards of the Field Museum, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.

“We are delighted that our family will be associated with Northwestern’s quest to transform the next generation of computer scientists,” said Bill Osborn.

With 24 consecutive years of giving, the Osborns are platinum members of NU Loyal, the society recognizing consistent annual giving to Northwestern.

The Osborn Professorship was supported in part by alumni Patrick G. Ryan and Shirley W. Ryan through the Ryan Family Chair Challenge, which matches gifts made by other Northwestern supporters to establish new endowed professorships, or chairs, across a wide range of disciplines.