Mark Stehlik

Carnegie Mellon University

School of Computer Science

Assistant Dean for Outreach; co-founder of CMU CS Academy

Teaching Professor (née Principal Lecturer)
(but I prefer "Education Engineer")

My eulogy for my father
– died April 30, 2014

"What is Your Fractal Dimension?"
– my talk at TEDx Education City in Doha, Qatar, January 18, 2014

CMU Freshman Convocation 2017
– my keynote address starts at around 19:40, August 24, 2017

I'll see your major in AI and raise you a billion dollar college!
– MIT, 10/15/2018

"The time is always right to do what's right."
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

And, in the "Trump continues to just make shit up" department:

Trump downplaying the U.S. alliance with the Kurds,
11,000 of whom died fighting to help the US mission against ISIS:
"They didn't help us in the second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy for example,"
– Donald Trump, October 10, 2019
(while, technically, this is not made up, it's a total non-sequitur)
(also, technically, neither did Turkey!)

"Less than three weeks after winning the White House in 2016, Trump sent out
this tweet: 'In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I
won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.'"
– Chris Cillizza, CNN, March 6, 2019

"Last year he [Trump] said he 'heard I was first in my class' at the University of
Pennsylvania's Wharton business progeam, where he finished his undergraduate degree,
but Trump's name does not appear on the school's Dean's List, or on the list of
students who received academic honors in his class of 1968."
– Marc Fisher, writing in The Washington Post, March 5, 2019

"In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost
any administration in the history of our country. America's ... so true."
"Didn't expect that reaction, but that's okay."
(Laughter and applause)
– Donald Trump, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, September 25, 2018
(FYI, that's the world, by proxy, laughing at a sitting U.S. president)

"Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal. He was what he was.
Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance.
Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate.
'I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,' Nunberg recalled, 'before his finger
is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.'"
– Michael Wolff, writing in New York Magazine, January 8, 2018

"I'm very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words."
– Donald Trump, speaking at a SC campaign stop, December 30, 2015

We now return to our regularly scheduled stream of consciousness...

"The poor need the rich to provide for their bodies;
but the rich need the poor to provide for their souls."
– from Fr. Alek Schrenk sermon on Luke 16:19-31, September 29, 2019

"The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy,
but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher standard."
– George McGovern

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their
neutrality in times of moral crisis."
– John F. Kennedy, quoting (not accurately) Dante's "Inferno"

"What we ignore, we empower."
– Chris Cuomo, CNN, July 3, 2018

"It's hard not to see male entitlement and aggression as toxic forces degrading our culture.
But it's also hard not to notice that the world is now run by the aggressive and the bullying."
– Will Leitch, "How to Raise a Boy", in New York Magazine, March 5, 2018

"The best way to bury the past is to succeed in the present!"
– me

"The best journeys are the ones that are not fully mapped out!"
– me

"You're, like, a man page for life."
– Serene, CMU CS alum ('12)

"Like the Tardis, you're bigger on the inside!"
– Chris George ('20)

Trying to create "causal threads of goodness" since 1988.
– quoted phrase courtesy of Phil Syme, CMU CS alum ('96)

"What you do is who you are;
how you do it is what you are."
– me (apologies to Aristotle)

"Don't tell me what the rule says; tell me what it means!"
– me

"Perceived failure is oftentimes success trying to be born in a bigger way."
– fortune cookie

"There are two ways you can show someone you appreciate their work:
recognize them or reward them. That's it."
– me

"There is a no more stupid, or more dangerous, way of making decisions
than to put those decisions in the hands of those who pay no price for being wrong."
– Thomas Sowell

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
– Theodore Parker, attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Pravda vítězí (Truth prevails)"
– motto of the Czech Republic
"Truth prevails, but it's a chore."
– Jan Masaryk (Czech Foreign Minister, 1940-48)

"Age is a number; old (or young) is an attitude."
– me And in other nes

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
– George Bernard Shaw

"A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships."
– Helen Keller

"There is no greater gift than to realize how precious it is to be alive
and to know how infinitely small our lives are, yet how great we can be!"
– from the CNN series, "Believer", 4/5/2017

"Respect does not come ex officio."
– seen on Bill Scherlis's white board

"New is not a virtue; better is a virtue!"
– Takeo Kanade, CMU Robotics Professor

"Cursing a flat tire does not fix it."
– seen on a calendar in Maribor, Slovenia
"But it does make you feel better!"
– me

"Start by doing what's necessary;
then do what's possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
– St. Francis of Assisi

"God, grant me:
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference."
– Reinhold Niebuhr

"It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality."
– Virginia Woolf

"I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization"
(something we seem to have forgotten nowadays)
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

"Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity."
– Samuel Johnson

"No man becomes rich unless he enriches others."
– Andrew Carnegie
and, similarly,
"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."
– Albert Einstein, quoted in remembrance of Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
and, one last time,
"True wealth is not measured in money or status or power.
It is measured in the legacy we leave behind for those we love and those we inspire."
– Cesar Chavez

"Dollars have never been known to produce character,
and character will never be produced by money."
– W.K. Kellogg

"The role of a coach, and the role of a teacher, is to inspire."
– Po-Shen Loh, CMU Math Professor

"I was going to graduate in 9 days, but I guess now I won't be. Can I have some more candy?"
– an anonymous senior after the UCT final (who did pass!)

"Education is, quite simply, peace-building by another name.
It is the most effective form of defense spending there is."
– Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
– from "The End" by the Beatles, 1969

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing."
– attributed to Edmund Burke, 1776

"We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders."
– Walter Cronkite

"Edge cases are always important: in programming; in life."
– me
"But, you don't make policies around edge cases;
you make policies for the nominal case and deal with the edge cases as the exceptions they are."
– me

"Show me how you drive, and I'll tell you who you are."
– Vin Diesel (as Dom Toretto) in Fast & Furious 6

"A good exit is a quick one."
– Geoffrey Hitch, lecturing in Business Acting II, June, 2013

"The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting."
– a favorite, always inspiring, passage from Isaiah 50:4-6

"This is wrong on so many levels, I need a whiteboard!"
– anonymous

"A tyrant is a man not having control of himself who attempts to rule others;
a real slave to the greatest fawning; a man who throughout his entire life ... is full of fear."
– Plato's "Republic"

"The whole world rightly condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria,
but the US attack on the Assad regime does nothing to lower tensions, nor will it
hasten peace in that country. Too often, rash responses to horrific situations are about
the conscience of the attacker rather than a clear-headed response to an awful situation."
– Paul Nuttall, leader of the UK Independence Party (who I never thought I would ever agree with!), 4/7/2017

"The problem with free speech is that it's hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance.
But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts,
you forget how to think them — how to think freely at all — and ideas perish at conception."
– George Packer on the murders of Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy, quoted in The New Yorker, April 13, 2015

"If you can keep your head when all about you
  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
  Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
  And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
  And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
  And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
  And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
  To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
  Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
  Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
  If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
  With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
  And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son."
– "If—" by Rudyard Kipling

"Perfection is not attainable but, if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."
– Vince Lombardi (1933 graduate of St. Francis Prep in New York, my HS alma mater)

"The job of clever people is to ask difficult questions.
The job of very clever people is to ask deceptively simple ones."
– article on Ronald Coase in The Economist, September 7, 2013

"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do;
we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
– Steve Jobs

"Dance your best dance and let others dance theirs.
You cannot manage people for them to create knowledge or innovation.
You must let them dance their best dance to unveil their best potential, and innovation comes from there."
– Eva Chen, Trend Micro CEO, quoted in a CNN interview

"What made Nico (A. Nico Habermann, founding Dean of SCS) a great leader?
First, Nico was a man of principles and that was important.
Second, when Nico made a decision, he didn't just tell you the decision;
more importantly, he articulated the priniciples that inevitably led to that decision."
– Tom Mitchell, CMU Machine Learning Professor, giving the Habermann Lecture at CMU-Q, February 4, 2014

"We want only one thing — to be the best. What else is there?"
– Chrysler print ad, circa mid-1980's

"Chaotic good is more useful (and more interesting) than lawful good."
– me, inspired by Ian Voysey

"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room!"
– Dodge truck commercial

"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people
who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." – Hunter S. Thompson

"The people who get things done get more things to do."
– me

"To win without risk is to triumph without glory."
– Pierre Corneille

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
– Cicero

Rules in the School of Mark Stehlik:
(as told by David Kosbie, May 31, 2012)
(and then reiterated in an article in the Fall 2012 issue of "The Link", the CMU SCS newsletter)
1. Students come first, no matter what.
2. If you want people to work hard, you have to work harder
3. Attend to the whole student, not just their mind.

Corollary 1 — Mark's Teaching Axioms:
1. Be prepared! (do your homework beforehand)
(learning objectives drive assignments drive instructional strategies)
2. Know your students! (by name)
3. Be enthusiastic! (about the subject)
4. Be enthusiastic! (about teaching it)
5. Be enthusiastic! (about supporting their learning)

Corollary 2 — Mark's Advising Axioms:
1. Listen effectively
2. Be welcoming/open
3. Be non-judgmental/objective
4. Be honest
5. Be consistent

"The best way to lead is by example — it is far better to show people what is expected than to tell them."
– me

"If you are going to hold those around you to a standard, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard."
– me

"It is important to take what you do seriously, but it is equally important not to take yourself too seriously."
– me

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failures...
than to rank with those poorer spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much,
because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
– Teddy Roosevelt

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain!"
– Vivian Greene

"Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
– Mark Twain

"There is no limit to what a man can achieve as long as he doesn't care who gets the credit for it."
– attributed to Charles Edward Montague (and others)

"But the thing that makes a good life isn't constantly being saintly — it's just continuing to do (stuff).
We spend so much time waiting to start to live."
– Quinn Norton on the death of Aaron Swartz, quoted in The New Yorker, March 11, 2013

"What makes someone a New Yorker? (posed to comedian Denis Leary):
'If the Popemobile happened to cut you off in traffic and you immediately gave it the finger, you, my friend, are a New Yorker.'"
– New York magazine, October 6, 2008

"True love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction."
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"Can't we give ourselves one more chance
Why can't we give love that one more chance
Why can't we give love, give love, give love, give love...
'Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance...
This is ourselves
Under pressure"
– from "Under Pressure" by David Bowie & Queen, 1981

Me (to Herb Simon, Nobel Prize winner, as we walked toward each other on campus on a Saturday afternoon):
"Herb, what are you doing on campus? Today's not a work day."
Herb (to me): "If you love what you do, every day's a work day."
What a wonderful motto!

"Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only distaste,
it is better that you should leave your work
and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."
– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet: On Work

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."
– Henry Brooks Adams

"Education is not about the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire!"
– William Butler Yeats

"The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires."
– William A. Ward

"We look at people like Jack Pidgeon or the public school teacher who stretched the envelope for 30 years as exceptions, as anachronisms, because only the toughest can make a life of it. And that's the key. Teaching's not a job, it's a life. It's a commitment for life to nurture life. It should not be so much funded as held sacred. The fact that we count it as an expense or that we have to run it like a business is a disgrace."
– David Conrad, writing on the occasion of Jack Pidgeon's retirement as Headmaster of the Kiski School,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 25, 2002

"Children succeed in classrooms where they are expected to succeed.
Schools work best when they operate with a clarity of mission: as places to
help students master complex academic material. When teachers demand rigorous
work, students often rise to the occasion, whereas tracking students at
different cognitive levels tends 'diminish learning and boost inequality'."
– The Economist, August 17, 2013, review of Amanda Ripley's book, The Smartest Kids in the World: and how they got that way

"There is a C in STEM. Nothing will happen in the S, the T, the E, or the M without the C."
– Jan Cuny, NSF, at SIGCSE 2010

"It was clear to me that what Carnegie Mellon values in its faculty is whether you have an impact.
They don't do anything silly like count your publications. What the school wants is for you to change the world."
– Dave Andersen, CS faculty, quoted in Carnegle Mellon Today (7/12)

"Teach your children other than that which you were taught; as they are created for a time other than yours."
– HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, quoting Ali bin Abi Taleb, on the occasion of his transfer of power to his son, Sheikh Tamim, June 25, 2013

"I am convinced that...we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society."
– Martin Luther King, Jr. (probably true now more than ever...)

"People cannot be taught about 'diversity'; they can only discover it through personal experience."
– Everett Tademy, Director, Carnegie Mellon Equal Opportunity Services

"Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion."
– Georg Friedrich Hegel

"Find your passion first, job second."
– AT&T print advertisement

"To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

" be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it..."
– something to aspire to from Ted Kennedy's eulogy for his brother, Bobby

"How is it that someone as a great a curmudgeon as you manages to simultaneously be a ray of sunshine on a gloomy Pittsburgh day?"
– Katie Wilson, CS alum ('04)

"Good days, bad days, but never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do. You show up, you put one foot in front of the other, and you do your job, which is a mystery and a surprise. You have no idea...what God is calling you to. But he needs you, so keep going. Keep supporting each other. Be kind to each other. Love each other. Work together. You love the job. We all do. What a blessing that is."
– Fr. Mychal Judge, FDNY chaplain, rededicating a Bronx firehouse on 9/10/01,
24 hours before perishing at Ground Zero
from a very moving biography in the November 12, 2001 issue of New York Magazine

Of particular relevance as my parents entered their eighties (God rest their souls)...
"The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don't want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don't want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn't, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end."
– from "Letting Go: What should medicine do when it can't save your life?",
an excellent article by Atul Gawande, M.D. in The New Yorker, August 2, 2010

Random Talks

Other Favorite Quotes


"If you're not TOTALLY APPALLED, you're not paying attention!"
– bumper sticker (a wonderful motto for these past four eight years [to be clear, the years in question are 2000-2008])

"When will we again have a President who says, Don't judge me by what I do for those who have much but for what I can do for those who have little?"
– William vanden Heuvel speaking about F.D.R. in The New Yorker, August 15 & 22, 2011

"Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left."
– from "Battleground America",
an excellent article by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, April 23, 2012

"The trouble with so much of the conservative critique of Obama's foreign policy is that it cares less about outcomes than about the assertion of America's power and the affirmation of its glory. In the case of Libya, Obama led from a place of no glory and, in the eyes of his critics, no results could ever vindicate such a strategy. Yet a calculated modesty can augment a nation's true influence. Obama would not be the first statesman to realize that it can be easier to win if you don't need to trumpet your victory."
– David Remnick editorial, The New Yorker, September 5, 2011

"The damage visited upon America, and upon America's standing in the world, by the Bush Administration's reckless mis-handling of the public trust will not easily be undone....
Pollsters like to ask voters which candidate [Bush or Kerry] they'd most like to have a beer with, and on that metric Bush always wins. We prefer to ask which candidate is better suited to the governance of our nation."
– editorial, The New Yorker, November 1, 2004

"A gangly Illinois politician whom 'the base' would today label a RINO—a Republican in Name Only—once pointed out that you can fool some of the people all of the time. We now know how many 'some' is: twenty-seven per cent. That's the proportion of Americans who, according to CNN, cling to the belief that George W. Bush has done a good job. The wonder is that this number is still in the double digits, given the comprehensively disastrous record. During the eight years of the second President Bush, the unemployment rate went from 4.2 per cent to 7.2 per cent and climbing; consumer confidence dropped to an all-time low; a budget surplus of two hundred billion dollars became a deficit of that plus a trillion; more than a million families fell into poverty; the ranks of those without health insurance rose by six million; and the fruits of the nation's economic growth went almost entirely to the rich, while family incomes in the middle and below declined. What role the Bush Administration's downgrading of terrorism as a foreign-policy priority played in the success of the 9/11 attacks cannot be known, but there is no doubting its responsibility for the launching and mismanagement of the unprovoked war in Iraq, with all its attendant suffering; for allowing the justified war in Afghanistan to slide to the edge of defeat; and for the vertiginous worldwide decline of America's influence, prestige, power, and moral standing."
– editorial, The New Yorker, January 19, 2009

"The familiar arguments against the death penalty apply to cases like his [Moussaoui's], some with special force. Whether or not the prospect of lethal injection deters ordinary murder—a questionable proposition at best—it is perverse to imagine that it can deter the sort of murder of which faith-based ritual suicide is an integral part. And any execution, whatever the crime it is intended to punish, degrades the society that decrees it and demoralizes the particular government employees who are assigned to carry it out. A criminal may deserve to die, may deserve even to die in terror and agony; but no civil servant deserves to be made to participate in the premeditated killing of another person, however wicked...
The trial and punishment of any international terrorist occurs in a global political context that darkens another of the stains on capital punishment: the company it keeps. In 2005, according to Amnesty International, ninety-four percent of all known executions took place in four countries. One, China, is a Communist Party dictatorship. Two others, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are Islamist autocracies. The fourth is the United States."
– editorial, The New Yorker, May 15, 2006

"What followed was a drama of redemptive, liberating settlement on one side and catastrophic dispossession on the other—all of it taking place on a patch of desert land too small for easy division and too imbued with historical and holy claims for rational negotiation. For the Jews in Palestine, Zionism was a movement of national liberation after untold suffering; for the Arabs, Zionism was an intolerable assault by the colonial West against sacred ground and Islam itself. Even now, more than a century later, politicians and scholars alike quickly betray prejudices, passions, and allegiances in the details they select when relating the saga that led to the U.N. Partition Plan, on November 29, 1947, and the war that began just hours later."
– the best one-paragraph summary of the Israel-Palestine conflict I've come across
from David Remnick's review of Benny Morris's book, "1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War",
The New Yorker, May 5, 2008

Rogues' Gallery

Educational Stuff

Other Interests / Random Links

Contact Information

Gates 6205
(412) 268-6273
Administrative Assistant
Charlotte Yano
Gates 6027
(412) 268-7656
Carnegie Mellon University
Computer Science Department
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

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last modified: February 15, 2018