Distinguished Alumni Awards

Richard T. Cheng

Richard T. Cheng
To Richard T. Cheng, for pioneering and outstanding leadership in education and in business.

Founder and President (Retired), ECI Systems Engineering, Virginia Beach, VA

  • BS, 1958, General University BS, 1963, MEd, University of Wisconsin￿Stout
  • MS, 1969, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • PhD, 1971, Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

After graduating from Illinois with one of the first graduate degrees from the Department of Computer Science, Richard T. Cheng went on to found several computer science programs—at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, Hunter College, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Old Dominion University. In 1981, during his time at Old Dominion, he began serving as a consultant to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, assisting with the establishment of the College of Computer Science and Engineering at King Saud University. Until 1991, he advised the Saudi government about the nation’s computer network system.

He retired from his career in academia in 1985 to concentrate full time on running ECI, a highly successful, award-winning company he founded in 1980 with a former Illinois graduate student as his first employee. The company focused on research and development in computing in native foreign languages including Chinese. Because of this expertise, ECI successfully competed in 1983 for a multimillion dollar contract for the United States Information Agency’s worldwide computer network. ECI grew into a leading integrated systems provider for the U.S. military and government, with annual sales of over $50 million, more than 500 employees, and 32 offices around the world. In 2002, Cheng retired, and ECI went through several mergers.

Cheng has made several endowments to support computer science, including the Richard T. Cheng Endowed Fellowship in the Department of Computer Science at Illinois. He has also been active in the Chinese American community, having founded the Organization of Chinese Americans, Eastern Virginia Chapter and become a member of the Committee of 100, an organization that seeks stronger relations between the United States and China.

Current as of 2011.