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USM Alum Named Lifetime IBM Champion

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 15:41pm | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

Dusty RiversA University of Southern Mississippi alumnus was recently awarded the prestigious IBM Champions Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the community and industry and expertise in IBM technologies.

Dusty Rivers (B.S. ’77), one of just 25 award recipients in the world, received the honor as the first recipient from the “IBM Z” program (‘z’ is the industry codename for the IBM mainframe, which is the technology on which Rivers has worked since graduating from USM). Rivers is the Director of z Systems Software for Atlanta-based GT Software, a mainframe modernization software company. His work is something most people have likely benefitted from without even realizing it, such as mobile banking, airline maintenance, and even when buying that expensive new German sports car. Rivers’ global customers range from government agencies, airlines, car companies and banks—essentially anyone who needs to tie new technologies back to their mainframe system without having to write any new code.

“What I do now wasn’t even thought of when I was in school. There weren’t even personal computers,” Rivers recalls. “But if you ask someone from the USM computer science program, they’ll tell you they remember four things we were taught there: first to think; second to analyze and solve the problem; third to adapt; and finally, we had to be able to communicate.”

Rivers’ loyalty to USM runs deep—he and his wife are both graduates, as well as one of his daughters who married into a family of Golden Eagles. He enjoys connecting with fellow alumni, whether in-person when they notice his class ring that he still proudly dons, or, in the age of COVID-19, through online platforms such as LinkedIn. He remains in touch with both classmates and professors, including longtime Department of Computer Science professor Dr. Ralph Bisland.

“Dusty was the epitome of a computer science student that we graduated, and he has certainly utilized his educational skills to the highest level,” Dr. Bisland said. “I used to stress to all of my students that when you graduate, you must have two skills. First, the ability to solve problems in your field of study and second, the ability to communicate with others, both orally and in writing. Dusty has certainly demonstrated these skills at the highest level.”

The IBM award is an extension of the IBM Champion program, which Rivers was accepted to 11 years ago. The program recognizes innovative thought leaders in the technical community and rewards their contributions by amplifying their voice and increasing their sphere of influence. Rivers has been described as “an active advocate for the Z Platform and all who work on it” and “the epitome of the IBM Champion program.”

“I look at all the Champions, most of whom I know not just from work but also as friends—they’re all amazing people,” Rivers said about being named a lifetime achiever. “Just to be selected from that group of people is one of the highest honors I can think of. I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this award.”

Rivers spent more than a decade advocating for the mainframe platform within the IBM Champion program among many other user groups and communities. As director of z systems at GT Software, Rivers works with global companies to API-enable their legacy systems and connect them to modern technologies. He saw the launch of Ivory Service Architect, GT Software’s no-code integration platform, and for nearly two decades has played an important role its product development. Rivers is also an active member in the broader Z Community. As a project manager for SHARE, he enjoys being involved with the community, track planning and was even awarded the Best of the Best for his session on APIs this past year. Rivers is also active in mentoring the New to Z community, a panelist for many TechU sessions and a passionate IMS user and advocate.