Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, NMSU electrical engineering alumnus, has received the Western Society of Engineers Washington Award. Each year during Engineers’ Week, the prestigious Washington Award is conferred upon an engineer(s) whose professional attainments have preeminently advanced the welfare of human kind. Presentation of the award is made at a joint banquet of the members and guests of the Western Society of Engineers; the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers; American Society of Civil Engineers; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers; National Society of Professional Engineers; and the American Nuclear Society. Smith received the award on Feb. 19 in Chicago.
Smith is co-founder of Pixar, the former director of computer graphics research for Lucasfilm, and the founder of Altamira Software.
Smith obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from NMSU in 1965. He received his doctoral degree in computer engineering from Stanford University in 1970 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from NMSU in 1999.
In 1974, Smith worked for Xerox PARC where he contributed to the creation of the HSV color space. He began working at New York Institute of Technology in 1975 and co-invented the concept of the alpha channel which is the rendering image elements into separate passes and then combining the resulting multiple 2D images into a single, final image.
Smith took that concept and went on to be a founding member of Lucasfilm in 1980. In 1986, he co-founded Pixar and served on the board of directors and as the executive vice president. In 1991, Smith founded Altamira later acquired by Microsoft and became the first Graphics Fellow at Microsoft in 1994. Smith is now president of his own company, Ars Longa, a digital photography company.
Smith has received two technical Academy Awards for alpha channel concept and for digital paint systems. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and he is Trustee Emeritus of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, based in Boston.
He retired in 2000 to devote time to the emerging art form of digital photography and to scholarly genealogy, to which he has contributed two books and several journal papers.