Alexander (Alec) Ennis, former senior at Southern Adventist University, died unexpectedly in May before he could finish his senior capstone project; however, SAU computer science professor Robert Ordóñez plans to complete the project within the next year, possibly using the finished product to fund a scholarship for computer science majors in his memory.
Ennis, son of Randy and Wendy Ennis and husband of Angie Ochoa, would have graduated from SAU in Dec. 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, bachelor’s degree in computer science, and master’s degree in computer science after only five and a half years of studies.
Ennis had spent the winter 2019 semester developing his project: an encrypted translator connecting a computer to a USB drive in order to make high levels of security easily accessible to the general public, according to Ordóñez.
Ordóñez is working with a select group of computer science students to finish the device, but they have a long way to go and are unable to predict how much time such a task might take to complete.
“You’re trying to basically reverse-engineer how far somebody got,” says Ordóñez. “I have his proposal paper. I have the work that he’s done, but there’s a huge part of that missing. When you’re working on an individual’s project, there’s a huge part of the progress notes that’s just in your brain.”
Currently, Ordóñez and his students are attempting to solve a problem with the device’s main board. Once completed, the device could be patented and produced and the money used to fund the scholarship.
Ochoa wants the scholarship to provide computer science students with the opportunity to focus on studies without the distraction of finances, as Ennis himself spent much of his time working and attempting to make payments. “Alec might have finished [his project] if he didn’t have to worry about money,” says Ochoa.
Wendy Ennis believes the completed project and potential scholarship would continue Ennis’s legacy. She says, “It would be the fulfillment of God’s promise in Romans 8:28 saying that He will turn the bad into good.”
“Working on the project has made me really think about that idea of legacy,” says Ordóñez. “What if someone got a box of my stuff? Would they see a worthy project? It’s a privilege to get a little view into Alec’s life in that way.”
Ordóñez hopes finishing the project and funding the scholarship will encourage others to remember Ennis as a student who saw his studies as his passion and not mere assignments. “I want to inspire more students to do that.”