Commentary: A thousand trick-or-treaters? Just a normal Halloween in Alhambra, thanks to my neighbor and former colleague Mark Kukis.
Mark Kukis was the first computer science and technology faculty member at USC’s Annenberg Center for Communication. That’s where I met Mark in 2001, shortly after joining as director of web programming at the Center. He had already been the director of web for the Humanities Institute and the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Information Sciences and Engineering. He’d been at USC since 1989.
We didn’t know it then, but that semester Mark took over Webmaster’s Hall, and one of the first things he did was introduce me to the USC library’s (at the time) most popular collection: the annual Halloween candy-related collection. (A “fun collection” the library had, in its own words.)
Mark had a good laugh about it. But he had a bigger laugh a little later on. Mark and I used to have a habit of discussing his professional background, especially his background in the field of computer science. He’d tell me about his work as a computer science and software engineer as a professional, something I had always suspected. I had never expected it to be quite so humbling.
When I got to USC in 2004, Mark continued to work in the libraries. That summer, he started work in the Department of Information Sciences, where he’s now professor of computer science and director of the Center for Information and Computer Sciences.
In 2005, while I was on sabbatical, Mark was hired as the director of Webmaster’s Hall, a job he still does this year. He asked in 2006 if I would go with him to USC as his first full-time hire from our graduate school. I said I would.
Mark, who’s just a couple years older than me, grew up in the Los Angeles area (a suburb of Los Angeles) and went to college there, graduating from UCLA. I think he told me something interesting: his first computer programming job was a print shop job at a time when a lot of young people