Meet Steve Vigil (CCS Mathematics '77)

November 29, 2018

Editor’s note: We are featuring stories from members of the CCS community. Some stories will be personal and others will be written in the third person. Check them out here and make sure to submit your own story here.

Steve Vigil
Steve Vigil

To be honest, I cannot recall how I learned about CCS. In my senior year of high school (1971/1972), I had decided on UCSB as my preferred university because I would receive a quality UC education, and would be close to the fabled point breaks of Santa Barbara County. Although I don’t remember how I first heard about CCS I do remember that, once I discovered the deep dive into mathematics that CCS offered, it was an easy decision.

Without a doubt, my favorite aspects of the CCS experience were the small seminars that greatly accelerated my educational progress, and the immediate focus it afforded me in my area of interest (mathematics), rapidly and immediately, while other students were still slogging it through their general education requirements.

I am forever grateful for the CCS experience, in which I was so fortunate to participate. I am especially indebted to Drs. Weiss and Gerstein, who were both major, positive influences in my life.

The small seminars, where a small group of like-minded math heads could explore mathematics with a gifted instructor/leader were priceless. I still remember fondly the many hours I spent with Dr. Max Weiss and just a few very gifted fellow students, exploring and discovering mathematics as I had never imagined. I truly believe that it fundamentally changed the way I think. I had never been exposed to anything like it and it had a major impact that continues to influence my life.

After graduation, I was initially planning to pursue my Ph.D. in mathematics but I decided to take a break from school. Instead, I began what became my life-long career in the computer industry, primarily software design and development. Thanks to personal involvement and assistance from CCS professor Dr. Larry Gerstein, I was introduced to and hired by Culler-Harrison in Goleta, which was founded by former UCSB professor Dr. Glen Culler. This began my four-decade career in the computer industry, which also included long and satisfying stretches with NCR and Intuit. Initially, I was a software developer, but then later turned to the “dark side” and moved into management. This is where I spent the vast majority of my career, managing software development organizations. It was very satisfying and I feel very grateful for the opportunities I had. 

Ten years after graduating from CCS/UCSB I did return to school for my graduate degree, but this time a degree in business from the University of San Diego. Although the MBA has served me well in my professional career, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to stick with math. There is something very pure and elegant in mathematics, free from the subjectivity of the business environment. You cannot succeed simply by being the loudest person in the room, you need to prove what you say, logically and objectively. 

I am retired now, and my wife and I have homes in La Jolla, California, and Kekaha, Hawaii (Kauai). I still enjoy surfing, though I’m not as nimble as I used to be, and I am an active volunteer with Greyhound rescue.

Although I am happy with the career success I have achieved, I am humbled when I look at the accomplishments of many of my fellow CCS graduates: Professors, Authors, Doctors, and Nobel Prize recipients, among other high achievers.  I am proud to be a part of the CCS family. The only advice I would give to current, or prospective, CCS students is to make the most of it. Four years seems like a long time, but it flies by and then you are thrown into the tsunami of life/career/marriage, etc. Enjoy this special time and focus on this tremendous opportunity to pursue your field with passion.

I am forever grateful for the CCS experience, in which I was so fortunate to participate. I am especially indebted to Drs. Weiss and Gerstein, who were both major, positive influences in my life.