Clarence L. "Ben" Coates came to Purdue in 1973 to head the School of Electrical Engineering (now Electrical and Computer Engineering) where, for the next decade, he emphasized computer education and the development of computing facilities. He was a driving force behind the high performance computing and networking plan that led to the creation of the Engineering Computer Network (ECN) serving all of Purdue's engineering schools. He also initiated a degree program in computer engineering at Purdue. He returned to teaching in the computer field full-time in 1983 before retiring in 1988.
A Nebraska native and Navy veteran of World War II, Professor Coates taught electrical engineering and computer science at the universities of Illinois, Kansas and Texas and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before coming to Purdue. He supervised the engineering computer facilities at Texas and started a graduate program in information sciences. At Illinois, he directed the Coordinated Science Laboratory, an interdisciplinary lab focused on computers, information processing and electronics. He was also a research scientist at the General Electric Research Laboratory in New York and held five patents involving waveform recognition devices, circuit gates and accumulators on computer chips. Prof. Coates died in Florida on October 25, 2000, at age 76.