March 1, 2021 — Arthur “Buddy” Bland of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) was presented the Secretary’s Exceptional Service Award in December for 40 years of exceptional service to the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the nation delivering extraordinary leadership in high-performance computing (HPC). The highest of the Secretary’s Departure Awards, the Exceptional Service Award is given annually to recognize DOE employees whose outstanding and unique accomplishments and leadership exemplify “the highest standards of and dedication to public service and significantly benefits the department and the nation.”
In December, former Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette virtually presented the award, which is given upon an individual’s departure from the agency. Bland retired this week from his 36-year career at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), 14 of which were spent directing the OLCF’s largest supercomputing projects.
Since 2007, the Secretary’s Awards Program has recognized employees who show outstanding career service to DOE and the nation. Bland’s delivery of computing systems spans the vector systems of the 1980s all the way up to the OLCF’s 200-petaflop Summit system, the nation’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer. These leadership-class systems are built to address the nation’s science and engineering challenges in a wide range of areas, including climate science, fusion energy, combustion, astrophysics, biology, medicine, and data science.
“If you can point to any one person who has been there for the duration of the OLCF’s history, who has been the leader when things were at their lowest and when things were at their best, it’s been Buddy,” said Don Maxwell, who leads the HPC Scalable Systems Group in the National Center for Computational Sciences. Maxwell has worked with Bland for nearly his entire career. “He is truly one of the biggest reasons that we are so successful.”
Bland joined ORNL as a system administrator for the laboratory’s Cray X-MP system in 1984 and moved to the Center for Computational Sciences when it was formed in 1992, serving as the head of the Computer Systems Group. Eventually, he became the project director of the OLCF, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL, where he delivered and deployed the Jaguar, Titan, and Summit supercomputers—mammoth machines that earned number one spots on the TOP500 list of the fastest supercomputers in the world at different times.
Bland is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the IEEE Computer Society, and a member of Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGHPC (Special Interest Group on HPC). He received both his BS and MS in computer science from the University of Southern Mississippi before spending 4 years as an officer in the US Air Force managing its first supercomputer.
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