Dr. Patricia E. Wirth


In recognition of her research and fundamental contributions in the modeling and analysis of telecommunications and computer systems leading to world-class performance of the global AT&T network for which she was named an AT&T Fellow (the first woman to receive AT&T’s highest technical honor), her leadership in AT&T Labs in building a world renowned team in the areas of teletraffic theory, performance analysis and network design, for her leadership of the AT&T Labs program that provided financial and mentoring support to women and minorities pursuing doctorates in the sciences and engineering for which this program was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, and her dedication to personally mentoring and nurturing younger colleagues in technical disciplines, the University of Nebraska proudly inducts Nebraska native and outstanding University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumna Dr Patricia E. Wirth into the Nebraska Hall of Computing.


Patricia Wirth grew up on a farm outside Nebraska City where an outstanding high school teacher sparked her love for mathematics. After receiving a four year Regents scholarship she earned a B.A. degree in mathematics in three years with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1971. In her first job after college she worked as a statistical research assistant at the Washington University School of Medicine studying innovative forms of health care delivery. She received the M.S. and D.Sc. degrees in Systems Science and Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1978 and 1981 respectively.

In 1981 Pat joined AT&T Bell Laboratories as a Member of Technical Staff until 1985 when she became a Technical Manager supervising performance modeling of AT&T’s new 5ESS Switch, the first fully software controlled network switching element. In 1990 she was promoted to Head of the Department of Teletraffic Theory and System Performance. She led this evolving department that grew to over 50 experts chartered to assess and improve the performance of AT&T's networks, products and services until her retirement in 2005. During this period she championed a company wide initiative to apply Software Architecture Reviews to all new significant software systems utilizing independent experts from within the company over a multi- day effort. This program led to significant improvements of major software systems meeting their business mission. The paper (co-authored) describing these experiences was named among IEEE Software's 25th Anniversary Thirty-Five Top Picks out of the 1200 peer reviewed full- length articles it had published through 2008.

With the rapid growth of the global Internet in the mid-90s and the opportunity it presented for AT&T as a growth business, Pat moved the major focus of her team. Contributions included the first end-to-end performance modeling of internet based services and associated actual measurable network metrics gathered in real time that alerted when customers were impacted. This work helped AT&T enter into contractual arrangements with clear boundaries and associated measures of quality including penalties with major corporate clients that shared portions of the delivered service. Within AT&T it also helped grow a large new business as a major internet backbone provider and as a provider of contractual services branded and provided by third parties. Additionally, Pat and her team were thought leaders in the international teletraffic community organizing conferences, delivering seminal papers and fostering exchanges and cooperation.

While at AT&T Pat also chaired the AT&T Labs Fellowship Program that provided financial and mentoring support to women and minorities pursuing doctorates in the sciences and engineering; this program was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring and supported nearly 100 students during her tenure. She has received the YWCA Tribute to Women and Industry Award, the Women of AT&T Management Executive Award and was honored as a “Master” by the University of Nebraska. In 1997 she was the first woman to be named an AT&T Fellow, the highest technical award given at AT&T, "for the application of teletraffic theory, network performance modeling and systems analysis leading to the world-class performance of the global AT&T network."