When Columbia University's Center for Computing Activities (CUCCA) split into administrative and academic sections, the former named themselves Administrative Information Systems, or AIS. The latter became Academic Information Systems, which could not also be AIS, so it became AcIS.
While AIS is pronounced "ay-eye-es", there was speculation among AcIS clients as to how AcIS might be pronounced. To stem the flood of unattractive suggestions, Joe Brennan pointed out that it is pronounced "aces". This inspired Melissa Metz to imagine a logo using a fan of aces and a Columbia Crown. Margarita Suarez, who sidelines in presentation graphics, used Aldus Freehand to implement the five aces, including and cleaning up a ThunderScanned Columbia crown.
In a summer t-shirt campaign, Marg and Melissa spread the unofficial logo onto the chests of AcIS staff, convincing many of them that it was the official logo. Over time, it was embraced by all of AcIS, and began to show up on printed documentation and Computing News, the AcIS newsletter. When the Web swept up AcIS, the logo was soon converted to gif to appear in many a home page.