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IT Dean to Retire after Three Decades on Campus

02/03/16

Over the past 32 years, perhaps no one has seen more change in his career than Peter Allmaker. The associate dean of information technology, who retires this month from MCLA, comes from a family tradition of working at the College, but there’s been nothing traditional about his career.

He first became interested in computers while he was in graduate school earning his master’s degree as a secondary school teacher. His father, Ali Allmaker, taught math, physics and philosophy at the College for 31 years – from the 1960s through the early ’90s – and often encouraged Peter as a high school student to join him on the faculty.

Allmaker instead went on to teach at a vocational school; a position he very much enjoyed. Then, computers were mostly a hobby to him.

“When I was learning computing, we were still punching cards,” he recalled.

Despite never planning to follow in his father’s footsteps on campus, in 1983 Allmaker was offered a position to teach computer science at the College.

“Back at the start, people were saying things like, ‘There will only be the need for half a dozen computers in the world.’ It was all about time sharing, and interacting through a phone wire with a computer in Boston, which we shared with many other schools.”

In time, the College not only had a computer on campus, but another in the Computer Science Department. By 1997, an information technology (IT) department was formed to support academic affairs and to run the computer labs, and Allmaker put his teaching duties on hold to administer that program.

“The next thing you know, everyone had their own computer. Then suddenly, today, every person has multiple computing devices, from something on their desk to something they carry around in their briefcase, to something that they have on a belt clip or on their wrist,” Allmaker said. “Each of these things is more powerful than the very first thing I used over a very long telephone wire.”

Continual learning has been the theme of his career, as Allmaker kept up with the fast pace of ever-changing technology. “It was new technologies and quickly trying to learn them, evaluating what would be useful to the College, then diving in.”

Allmaker acknowledges that 99 percent of his work in IT is invisible to the average person. “They have absolutely no idea of what’s going on down here. They just want it to work.”

His duties included being in charge of computer support services, the Help Desk, MCLA’s network and its Internet connection, as well as managing and running all of the servers on campus.

More recently, his oversight included telephones, and he’s also been involved with academic technology, such as Canvas. Through the Help Desk and Media Services, he helped to plan and select classroom technology, including the short-throw projectors in the newly renovated Bowman Hall.

Now, “I can’t think of any project that the College would undertake that wouldn’t involve computing to some degree,” Allmaker said.

“Over the 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to see tremendous changes in the campus, especially over the past six to 10 years,” he continued. “We’ve refurbished buildings, built new buildings, and are using the techniques and the software that would rival any large institution’s catalog of offerings.”

He looks forward to his retirement, and getting back to computing as a hobby.

“It really has been wonderful,” Allmaker said. “In a world where people are told they’ll probably change their job every five years, to essentially have had a career in only one place and the opportunity for two completely different experiences I think is really cool.”