Born in Jefferson City, Tennessee, Dean holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, a master's degree in electrical engineering from Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
Dean is the first African-American to become an IBM Fellow which is the highest level of technical excellence at the company. In 1997, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Currently, he is an IBM Vice President overseeing the company's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.
Dean led a team that developed the interior architecture (ISA systems bus) that enables multiple devices, such as modems and printers, to be connected to personal computers.
Dean made history again by leading the design team responsible for creating the first 1-gigahertz processor chip, another significant step in making computers faster and smaller.