NH State Representative Tom Cormen

About Tom Cormen

I grew up in Oceanside, New York, on the south shore of Long Island. Oceanside had an excellent public school system. I graduated as salutatorian of my high-school class and entered Princeton University in 1974. I studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (very little EE, mostly CS) and graduated summa cum laude with memberships in Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi (the Engineering honor society), and Eta Kappa Nu (the Electrical Engineering honor society).

My education was only my second-most important experience at Princeton. The most important was a girl I met during freshman week. We lived in the same dorm, one entry (vertical hallway) apart. Her name was Nicole Sage. We dated for the first three years of college and parted before our senior year. We got back together the year after we graduated and married in 1980. If the name Nicole Cormen rings a bell, that’s her. Nicole served the City of Lebanon on the Planning Board, on the Conservation Commission, as the Park Ranger, and for seven years on the City Council. Cancer took her in 2015. It was Nicole’s dedication to our City that inspired me to run for office.

After Princeton, I took a job at Amdahl Corp. in Sunnyvale, California. I left Amdahl in 1979 to join a startup, Avera Corp., in Scotts Valley, California. Around that time, Nicole and I moved to a small cottage in the beach town of Capitola, which was just right for us. I had a great time at Avera, and I learned a ton, but by 1983 the company was failing. I took a job at Caere Corp. in Los Gatos, California. That job did not work out (mainly because the first thing I did was a feasibility study for the project I was hired for, and my conclusion was that it was not feasible with the technology of the time), and I briefly returned to Avera.

As Avera was going down the tubes, I applied to Ph.D. programs in Computer Science, and I got into three of the top ones. I accepted MIT, and so Nicole and I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1984. I had the good fortune to have Charles Leiserson recruit me as one of his graduate students. My research was on parallel computing. But the most notable product of my grad-school years was co-authoring the textbook Introduction to Algorithms. I like to say that writing the book was the second-best thing I’ve ever done (the best, of course, was marrying Nicole). The book is now in its fourth edition, having been translated into several foreign languages and having sold over one million copies worldwide.

I graduated from MIT after a mere eight years (five years is normal, the extra three were due to writing the book). In 1992, we moved to Hanover, where I’d gotten a job as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Dartmouth College. At first, we lived in Dartmouth rental housing near CRREL. Then, in 1993, we bought the home where I still live, in the Blueberry Hill neighborhood of Lebanon.

I advanced through the professorial ranks, getting tenure in 1998 and being promoted to Associate Professor of Computer Science (the department I had joined in 1992 split into two separate departments in 1994), and then being promoted to full Professor of Computer Science in 2004. My academic career took an unusual turn that year, as Dartmouth asked me to direct the nascent Writing Program. I did that for the first four years of the Writing Program, learning much about managing and working with people with different academic interests. I then chaired the Computer Science department from 2009 to 2015. During that time, I wrote another book, Algorithms Unlocked. I retired from the Dartmouth faculty on January 1, 2022 and am now an Emeritus Professor. I gave a last lecture in the academic tradition in November 2019 to my introductory CS class, but it was not about Computer Science. It was about finding meaning in life. You can see a video of it here.

During my years on the Dartmouth faculty, I taught a variety of courses, but none more often than the introductory CS course, which I taught 25 times. I never totaled up how many students I taught in my 29+ years, but it’s certainly well over 2000. I graduated relatively few Ph.D. students over my time at Dartmouth, only five, but I am pleased to say that the last three were women. I always encouraged women to study Computer Science and for women to develop leadership roles. For example, the last time I taught the introductory course, of my 20 undergraduate teaching assistants, 18 were women. I was also the first faculty advisor for the Women in Computer Science Club, which I continued doing for several years. I focused my teaching and research collaborations on undergraduates.

After I retired from Dartmouth, I became active with COVER Home Repair of White River Junction, Vermont. COVER performs urgent home repairs for low-income homeowners in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, primarily roof repairs, external ramps, and weatherizing. I joined the Development Committee of the Board of Directors as a community member in the fall of 2021. When COVER’s grant writer left at the end of 2021, I stepped in as the pro bono grant writer (with a much higher success rate than I ever had at Dartmouth). I joined COVER’s Board of Directors in July 2022. I enjoy working on roof and ramp projects for COVER.

Although Nicole’s service to Lebanon inspires me, running for the New Hampshire House of Representatives was not originally in my retirement plans. With redistricting, Lebanon’s four representatives went from all being elected at-large (throughout the entire City) to one for each of the three wards and one at-large. None of the four incumbent representatives lived in Ward 3. Our State Senator, Sue Prentiss, asked me to run and represent Ward 3. After consulting with several current and former state representatives and other trusted friends, I agreed to do so. Over the summer and fall of 2022, I went door to door throughout Ward 3, meeting voters and hearing your concerns. The issues I usually brought up were reproductive rights, voting rights, education funding, responsible gun ownership, and the environment and renewable energy. Not every voter agreed with me on every issue, which came as no surprise. I won the election in November, and I count my opponent in the election, Nick Mouzourakis, as a friend.

In the New Hampshire House, I sit on the Science, Technology and Energy Committee.