John L. Hennessy

John Leroy Hennessy, an American computer scientist, academic, and entrepreneur, currently holds the position of Chairman at Alphabet Inc.

John Leroy Hennessy (born September 22, 1952) is an American computer scientist, academician, and businessman. He is widely recognized as a prominent figure in the technology industry and has made significant contributions to computer architecture and Silicon Valley.

Hennessy served as the tenth President of Stanford University, a prestigious institution known for its leadership in technology and innovation. During his tenure, he oversaw various initiatives that advanced Stanford's research and educational programs. In the summer of 2016, Hennessy announced his decision to step down as president, and he was succeeded by Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

Prior to his role at Stanford, Hennessy played a crucial role in shaping the landscape of computer architecture. He co-founded MIPS Computer Systems Inc., a company that developed microprocessors based on the reduced instruction set computer (RISC) architecture. RISC architecture revolutionized computer chip design by simplifying instructions and improving performance. Today, RISC architecture is widely used in 99% of new computer chips.

Hennessy's contributions to computer architecture, particularly his work on RISC, earned him the prestigious Turing Award in 2017. He shared this honour with David Patterson, highlighting their groundbreaking achievements and their profound impact on the field of computer science.

Aside from his academic and research accomplishments, Hennessy is actively involved in the business world. He serves as the Chairman of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. In this capacity, he provides strategic guidance and contributes to the overall direction of one of the world's leading technology companies.

Given his extensive contributions to computer science, his influential role at Stanford University, and his position as Chairman of Alphabet Inc., Hennessy is widely regarded as a key figure in Silicon Valley. His work has not only shaped the industry but has also earned him the reputation as the "godfather of Silicon Valley," as described by Marc Andreessen, a prominent entrepreneur and investor.


John L. Hennessy is an esteemed computer scientist, academic leader, and influential figure in the technology industry. He was born on September 22, 1952, in Huntington, New York, as one of six children. His father worked as an aerospace engineer, and his mother was a teacher who later focused on raising her children.

Hennessy completed his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Villanova University. He furthered his education at Stony Brook University, where he obtained both a master's degree and a Doctor of Philosophy in computer science.

Hennessy's career at Stanford University began in 1977 when he joined the faculty. In 1981, he initiated the MIPS project, which aimed to explore the potential of reduced instruction set computer (RISC) processors. Recognizing the commercial viability of the technology developed through his research, he founded MIPS Computer Systems Inc. during his sabbatical year in 1984.

Throughout his tenure at Stanford, Hennessy held several significant positions. He served as the director of Stanford's Computer System Laboratory from 1989 to 1993, leading a research center within the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments. He then became the chair of the Department of Computer Science from 1994 to 1996 and subsequently the Dean of the School of Engineering from 1996 to 1999.

In 1999, Hennessy was appointed as the Provost of Stanford University, succeeding Condoleezza Rice. When Stanford President Gerhard Casper stepped down in 2000, Hennessy was chosen as his successor. He assumed the role of President of Stanford University, a position he held until 2016.

Beyond his contributions to Stanford, Hennessy has played prominent roles in various organizations and companies. He served as a board member for Google (later Alphabet Inc.), Cisco Systems, Atheros Communications, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. In recognition of his accomplishments, Hennessy was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2008.

Hennessy's dedication to education and research is evident through his involvement in numerous initiatives. He co-founded the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program in 2016, which provides fully funded graduate education at Stanford for exceptional students. As the inaugural director of the program, he oversees its operation and supports scholars from around the world.

In February 2018, Hennessy assumed the role of Chairman of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. In this capacity, he contributes to the strategic direction and governance of one of the world's most influential technology companies.

Hennessy's expertise in computer architecture is widely recognized. He co-authored influential books on the subject, including "Computer Organization and Design: the Hardware/Software Interface" and "Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach," written in collaboration with David Patterson. These books have been widely used as educational resources in both graduate and undergraduate courses since 1990.

Hennessy's significant contributions to computer science, particularly his work on RISC architecture, earned him the esteemed Turing Award in 2017. Alongside David Patterson, he was honoured for their pioneering efforts and profound impact on computer chip design.

John L. Hennessy's career and achievements reflect his remarkable contributions to computer science, leadership in academia, and influential role in the technology industry. His dedication to advancing education, research, and innovation has left an indelible mark on Silicon Valley and beyond.


John Hennessy has demonstrated a clear vision throughout his career, encompassing both academia and the technology industry. His vision centres around driving innovation, advancing education, and fostering technological advancements for the betterment of society.

As an academician, Hennessy's vision revolves around the transformative power of education. He believes in the importance of providing students with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle complex challenges and make meaningful contributions to the world. Through his leadership roles at Stanford University, Hennessy has championed initiatives that promote interdisciplinary learning, research collaboration, and experiential education. His co-founding of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program exemplifies his commitment to empowering outstanding individuals from diverse backgrounds to become future leaders and change-makers.

In the technology industry, Hennessy's vision is driven by a desire to push the boundaries of innovation. His work on the development of RISC architecture, for which he received the Turing Award, is a testament to his commitment to advancing computer chip design. Hennessy recognizes that breakthroughs in technology can have a profound impact on society, improving efficiency, enabling new possibilities, and transforming industries. As Chairman of Alphabet Inc., he is well-positioned to shape the direction of one of the world's leading technology companies and drive innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and internet services.

Hennessy's vision also encompasses the ethical and societal implications of technology. He emphasizes the importance of responsible and inclusive innovation, advocating for the ethical use of technology and the consideration of its impact on individuals and communities. His involvement in organizations such as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation reflects his commitment to addressing global challenges, including environmental sustainability and scientific research.

Recognition and Awards
In 1992, John L. Hennessy was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his innovations in computer architecture and software techniques for reduced instruction set computers (RISC), as well as his development of quantitative evaluation methods for modern computer architectures. Hennessy was also honored with the IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award in 1994 for his contributions to the quantitative evaluation of computer architectures and the successful implementation of RISC architecture. He became a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 1997 and received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 2001. In 2004, he was recognized with the Association for Computing Machinery SIGARCH ISCA Influential Paper Award for his co-authored paper on high performing cache hierarchies. Hennessy was named a Fellow of the Computer History Museum in 2007 for his fundamental contributions to engineering education and advances in computer architecture. He was awarded the prestigious IEEE Medal of Honor in 2012 for pioneering the RISC processor architecture and his leadership in computer engineering and higher education. Other notable honors include the Turing Award in 2017 for his systematic, quantitative approach to the design and evaluation of computer architectures and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in 2020 in Information and Communication Technologies. In recognition of his distinguished leadership in higher education, Hennessy received the Clark Kerr Award from the UC Berkeley Academic Senate in 2020. Most recently, in 2022, he was awarded the Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to the invention, development, and implementation of reduced instruction set computer (RISC) chips.

John L. Hennessy
California, U.S.
Chairman of Alphabet Inc., Former President of Stanford University
Known for
Reduced instruction set computer, MIPS Technologies, Atheros
Charles Stark Draper Prize (2022); Turing Award (2017); BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2020); Clark Kerr Award (2020); IEEE Medal of Honor (2012); Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2002); Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences ACM Fellow (1997); Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2017).
Villanova University; Stony Brook University
Mon Feb 26 2024

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