A nomination invites scrutiny if all
endorsements come from the same
institution. As a rule we expect that
candidates will have had an impact
beyond the boundaries of their own
organization. Such candidates should
be able to find endorsers outside their
A strong endorsement will provide
a personal angle—facts known to the
endorser that will enable the committee to better judge the material in the
nomination package. Such insights
often help explain the significance of
the nominee’s contributions.
only the strong survive
It is critical to note that content-free
endorsements will not prevail. On occasion, the endorsements are reminiscent of the model recommendation letter composed by Benjamin
“Sir: The bearer of this, who is going
to America, presses me to give him a letter of recommendation, though I know
nothing of him, not even his name ... As to
this gentleman, I must refer you to himself for his character and merits, with
which he is certainly better acquainted
than I can possibly be. I recommend him,
however, to those civilities which every
stranger, of whom one knows no harm,
has a right to…”
Endorsements that carry little
˲ ˲ Endorsements withnotextattached.
˲ ˲ Perfunctory endorsements that say
only something like “I know John Smith
and he satisfies, in my opinion, the criteria for Distinguished Engineer.”
˲ ˲ Endorsements that merely repeat
text from the nomination.
What comprises a great nomination package? Depending on the contributions (packages will vary), successful nominations tend to have the
Educator. The committee looks for
someone whose work as an educator
has had an impact on other educators as well as students. The package
should outline the nominee’s impact
both within and outside their institution. Letters of support should include at least one person in a significant leadership role at the nominee’s
institution, and one person who can
speak to their contributions in the
Engineer. The ideal nominee is
someone who has led an engineering and/or product effort, and who
ultimately delivered a result (typically
a product and/or patents) that has
demonstrated impact in their area of
expertise. The package should outline
the nominee’s technical contribution.
Letters of support should include at
least one person who is well known in
their technical area, and at least one
letter from someone outside the nominee’s institution or company.
Scientist. The committee seeks a
candidate who is a recognized leader
in the research field. The nomination
should include a brief description of
the field, leadership examples, and
why the nominee’s contribution is important. Letters of support should include at least one person well known
in the nominee’s research area. A letter, from a person at a different institution, could address the broader impact of the research.
As ACM is an international organization, the committee receives
nominations from around the world.
Unfortunately, we do not have representatives from every country, and at
times it is difficult to assess the impact of the contributions. Successful
nominations for scientists, for example, often include endorsements that
illustrate participation and leadership
in international research communities. For engineers, we look for products with broad recognition beyond
country boundaries. An endorsement
from an ACM Fellow or Distinguished
Member also helps to calibrate contributions across borders.
It is said that “success has many
fathers, while failure is an orphan.”
Nominations to advanced ACM membership grades reverse this adage: A
success reflects on the unique contributions of the nominee; failures can
be due to a weak case, a weak nomination, weak endorsements, or faulty
judgment by committee members.
Nominators can improve their odds by
following the advice noted here, and by
carefully following the instructions on
the ACM Web site ( http://plone.acm.
Marc Snir and Telle Whitney are co-chairs of the ACM
Distinguished Members Committee.
© 2010 ACM 0001-0782/10/0700 $10.00