Alvy Ray Smith sitting in a chair


Pixar Co-founder to Receive Honorary Degree at 2022 Commencement

April 18, 2022

New York Institute of Technology will award an honorary degree to Alvy Ray Smith, Ph.D., a pioneer in computer animation who continues to lead the field, at its 61st commencement on Sunday, May 22, at the university’s Long Island campus. Following the degree conferral, Smith will deliver the keynote address to the Class of 2022.

In addition, New York Tech has announced the Class of 2022 student orator and singer. Bakhtawar Shahbaz (B.S., Psychology; Faisalabad, Pakistan) was selected as the student orator to address the Class of 2022 during the commencement ceremony. She will assist in hooding Smith as the honorary degree recipient. Tricia Creft (B.S. Nursing, Queens Village, N.Y.) will sing the national anthem.

Smith, who will receive a Doctor of Science, is an original member of the Computer Graphics Lab at New York Tech founded in the 1970s, and where in 1976 he developed the eight-bit paint system to ease computer animation. He is now returning to campus and will be honored before an expected audience of several thousand graduates, family, and friends.  

A quintessential innovator and entrepreneur, Smith is the co-founder of two successful startups: Pixar, an animation studio he sold to Disney, and Altamira, a software company he sold to Microsoft. He also co-founded the Lucasfilm Computer Division, which developed computer graphics software, including early rendering technology.

“New York Tech is a diverse community of doers, makers, and innovators, and Alvy Ray Smith exemplifies that. His contributions to animation and computer graphics dramatically changed how movies are made. Through his examples of innovating and problem-solving, he can inspire in our students critically creative thinking that is infused with technology so that they can build their own legacy of innovation,” said New York Tech President Hank Foley, Ph.D., who will confer the honorary degree to Smith.

“The founding of computer-generated animation began at New York Tech and, in my mind, illustrates that innovation is an integral part of the university’s DNA,” said Smith, whose lab flourished under New York Tech’s first president, Alexander Schure. “Alex Schure, who had roots in animation himself, brought me to the Long Island campus in 1975, where, with his encouragement, we founded the Computer Graphics Lab. It was here that we, and a handful of colleagues, conceived a vision that would drive us from that point on: Be the first to make a completely computer-animated film.”

Among his many notable films, Smith created and directed the “Genesis Demo” in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and conceived and directed The Adventures of André & Wally B., starring the animator, John Lasseter. He proposed and negotiated the Academy-Award winning Disney computer-animation production system, CAPS, and also was the first Graphics Fellow at Microsoft and active in the development of the high-definition television (HDTV) standard. Read more about Smith’s legacy of innovation

Smith holds a Ph.D. from Stanford and an honorary doctorate from New Mexico State University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. He is the creator of many pieces of computer art, including Sunstone in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.