Wooster Mourns the Passing of Computer Science Professor Denise Byrnes

29-year member of faculty remembered as pioneer in CS, devoted teacher and advisor

August 3, 2020   /  

WOOSTER, Ohio – Denise D. Byrnes, an associate professor at The College of Wooster, passed away on July 21. She was 69.

A trailblazer in Wooster’s computer science academic program who was devoted to her students, Byrnes served as a faculty member for 29 years. She inspired countless students in her courses and her passion for embracing the latest technology, especially virtual reality, is evident in the long list of Independent Study’s she advised, with topics ranging from animating emotion to 3-D virtual worlds to human-technology interactions.

Byrnes guided the computer science department in her understated way for many years, helping to diversify the major’s curriculum while attracting new faculty and students. The introductory course, “Multimedia and Scientific Computing,” she designed was particularly successful. She also served as an Applied Methods and Research Experience (AMRE) advisor for many student projects and empowered students to lead a VR presentation at the Wooster Science Café, all while leaving a lasting impression on her colleagues.

“Denise was a dedicated, inspiring, and compassionate teacher and advisor, who cared for the entire wellbeing of our students,” Associate Chair of Computer Science Sofia Visa said of Byrnes, who was planning to retire at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. “She kept herself abreast with the latest technologies and CS developments, matching students’ interests by bringing into the classroom virtual and augmented reality. Students appreciated her dedication and expertise, and our seniors flocked to work with her on exciting I.S. projects in the field of computer graphics.”

Drew Pasteur, department chair of mathematics and computational sciences, added “Denise was a pioneer, both as a woman leading a program in an overwhelming male field and as a lifelong learner who drew students into computer science through modern areas such as graphics and gaming. Over the last decade, she grew our CS major in numbers and diversity. Welcoming students from all over the world, Denise put them at ease with her humor and easygoing manner, and prepared them well for professional success. We will greatly miss her presence in Taylor Hall.”

Byrnes’ most significant impact was the indelible mark she left on so many Wooster students, who fondly remember the care, interest, and love she showed in them. Recent student comments describe her as “a kind and welcoming person that made her field into something both fascinating and accessible,” a “beautiful soul,” and “witty, sensible, and always honest.”’

Byrnes’s obituary is available at Dowds-Snyder Funeral Home.