Dan ROBERTS ’73, m ’23
Roberts is writing a new chapter in his Clemson story by pursuing graduate degrees a half-century after his bachelor’s
In May of 2023, Dan Roberts collected a master’s degree from Clemson — exactly 50 years to the day after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University. And the 72-year-old grandfather of six isn’t done yet.
Roberts plans to stay at Clemson for a few more years to pursue a Ph.D. in human-centered computing.
“Coming back and being involved with and contributing to Clemson was a life goal,” he says. “I spent a career doing application and software development and traveled a lot. But I said when that slows down and my kids are grown, I want to work for or get involved with Clemson.”
Roberts’ first Clemson graduation was on May 11, 1973, when he received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics with a concentration in management science. This year, he received his Master of Science in computer science after making straight A’s in his classes.
Between those degrees, Roberts built a career designing cutting-edge software applications for major businesses on a global scale, giving him a front-row seat to the rise of the information age. In his time, computers have gone from mainframes that run on punch cards to pocket-size phones that can connect with the world at the touch of a screen.
As a Clemson student, Roberts says it felt weird at times to walk into classes where he was old enough to be the professor’s father and most students’ grandfather but that he ended up making friends and also joined the HATlab, which is co-directed by Kelly Caine and Bart Knijnenburg, both associate professors of human-centered computing.
“I’m inspired!” Caine says. “I learn more from him every time I talk to him. One thing I learned is that if you stay connected and you stay involved, you can do more than anybody might expect. I look forward to the research he does for his Ph.D.”
When Roberts first decided to return to Clemson, he started with the Institute for Engaged Aging, where he worked on a memory and cognition research project. That research inspired him to apply to graduate school. For his Ph.D., Roberts’ adviser is Brygg Ullmer, chair of the Human-Centered Computing Division, and he plans to research how technology such as smart homes and wearable devices can help keep older people socially engaged — which he has prioritized in his own life.
Although Roberts had opportunities to move over the years, he chose to stay in the Greenville, South Carolina, area, where volunteer activities have put him at the heart of civic life. As a volunteer for conservation nonprofit Upstate Forever, he has helped upgrade the organization’s computer system and served as volunteer coordinator, helping match volunteers with projects.
“He is totally selfless,” says Brad Wyche, founder and senior adviser of Upstate Forever. “He is always looking for ways to help people and organizations. He has a heart of gold and just wants to help in any way he can.”