Faculty Dinner Recognizes Retirees

Our annual faculty dinner - this year a catered dinner - was held on May 3, 2000 in the 9th floor lounge of Van Vleck Hall. There were six faculty members who fully retired from active service at UW-Madison at the end of the 1999-2000 academic year. They were Howard Conner, Simon Hellerstein, Louis Solomon, and Michael Voichick who ended their post-retirement agreements, and Phil Miles and Marshall Osborn who ended their full-time service without an interlude of post-retirement teaching and service. The careers, including some anecdotes, of the retirees were recalled at the dinner.

Michael Voichick

Mike received the PhD from Brown University in 1962 where his thesis was on function theory. He was John Wesley Young Research Instructor at Dartmouth College from 1962-64 before joining our faculty as an assistant professor in 1964. He took on the job of Undergraduate Advisor Coordinator in 1968, and continued with that job until his retirement in 1996. He had a post-retirement agreement but chose not to make use of it.

Mike was the first Undergraduate Advisor Coordinator in the Department. He made that position into a vital one for the department. He learned the intricate graduation rules, and met cheerfully with countlessly many students. He put department rules into order and designed a Handbook for our majors. Career planning advice was another important aspect of his job. During his career he received many accolades from students. In 1995 he won the Excellence in Student Advising Faculty Award from the College of Letters and Sciences. Dan Shea, who succeeded Mike as Undergraduate Advisor Coordinator, got off to a running start because of the excellent order in which Mike left the records and files.

Joann Elder, who was the Undergraduate Advisor Coordinator in the Department of Sociology and who worked with Mike in the Faculty Advising Service, said about Mike: ``Everything I knew about Mike - his amiability, attention to changing rules, openness to seeing students, giving them his time - he was a true professional and a really nice guy. The Math Department was lucky to have him.''

Marshall Osborn

Marshall received the PhD from the University of Chicago in in 1957 where he worked with A.A. Albert. He joined the UW-Madison faculty right after receiving the PhD and thus was an active faculty member for a remarkable 43 years. He was Chair of the Department from 1981 to 1984. In 1995, he was chair of a committee to seek a new associate chair. Not finding a willing candidate he volunteered for the job himself and stayed with it until his retirement in 2000. Thirteen PhD theses were written under his guidance.

Marshall's mathematical speciality is nonassociative algebras but he also did substantial work on Lie algebras of characteristic p, skew-derivations, and infinite-dimensional Lie algebras of Cartan type. Don Passman relates how many years ago at another university and at about the time Marshall's paper on varieties of algebras occupied an entire issue of Advances in Mathematics, he overheard some people discussing Marshall. Looking elsewhere, but with both ears pointed at the discussers, he heard one of them say: ``Marshall had impeccable mathematical taste.'' A conference was held in Madison in 2000 as a way of honoring Marshall for his many and important research accomplishments.

Using the metaphor of ``diapering,'' Jake Levin recalled how he had been the recipient of excellent diapering by Marshall in tax and legal issues. He described the job of associate chair as the ``ultimate diapering job.''

Marshall has been closely involved with the American Players Theatre in Spring Green for many years and was at one time President of their Board. He has also been involved with the Madison Opera. So, in addition to his service to the department and to the University, we have Marshall to thank for excellent theatre and opera in our area.

Howard Conner

Howard received the PhD from MIT in 1961. He was born and raised in Wisconsin and received a B.S. degree from UW-Madison in 1956. Howard was one of the first graduates of the Applied Mathematics, Engineering, and Physics (AMEP) program. He came to Madison as a member of the Mathematics Research Center and was appointed Assistant Professor in 1962. As a faculty member, Howard skillfully and with great care guided the AMEP program for nearly 30 years. The objective of this program is to offer a broad undergraduate program in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Subject to general rules, students can select a personalized course of study depending on their interests and goals (work in industry or graduate school). But AMEP students also went on to law, medical, and business schools.

Howard's early research area was in applied probability and focussed on branching processes and the application of stochastic processes to non-linear Boltzmann-type equations. In later years. his interests shifted to linear algebra and matrix theory. In the 1980s Howard worked with others on developing the computing facilities in the Department.

Simon Hellerstein

Si did his graduate work at Syracuse University where he received the PhD in 1961 working with Albert Edrei. After two years at Stanford University, he joined our faculty as as Assistant Professor. Si was Chair of the Department from 1988 to 1991. He was also Chair of the Executive Committee of the Division of Physical Sciences in 1993-94. Simon spent 1974-75 in Washington serving as a `rotator' at NSF. At Wisconsin, he had 9 PhD students. Si was known and revered as an inspiring lecturer and had high standards. In a supporting letter to his nomination to the UW Teaching Academy, one student wrote that ``Much of what he tried to instill in me will remain for many years, His drive for excellence has become mine as well."

Si's mathematical research interests have been in the theory of functions of a complex variable, their zeros, derivatives, and growth behavior. Later he became interested in differential equations in the complex domain. He collaborated for many years with Albert Edrei and Wolfgang Fuchs (Cornell University).

Louis Solomon

Lou received the PhD in 1958 from Harvard University where his thesis advisor was Richard Brauer. Before arriving in Madison in 1969, he held positions at Bryn Mawr University, Haverford College, and New Mexico State University. While at UW-Madison, he held visiting positions at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), the Rockefeller Institute, Queen Mary College of the University of London, and MSRI (Berkeley). At Wisconsin, Lou had 10 PhD students.

Lou's research interests have been in group representation theory and algebraic combinatorics. Major themes in his research have been reflection and Coxeter groups, integral representation theory, group characters, hyperplane arrangements, and generator and relations for groups. In recognition of his research accomplishments and the esteem in which he is held all over the world, a conference was held in his honor in Madison in 2000. You can read more about this conference elsewhere in this newsletter.

Phil Miles

Phil, who was born and raised in Madison, received the PhD in 1960 from Yale University with a thesis on B*-algebras written under the direction of Charles Rickart. He joined our faculty in the fall of 1960 and was an active faculty member for 40 years, He spent the years 1964-66 on leave in California working on a film project for the MAA, holding the MAA title of Associate Executive Director and Executive Director, Committee on Educational Media. He returned to Madison in 1966 to take up the post of Associate Chair, a position that was crucially important at a time when the Department and University were experiencing tremendous growth. Phil held and excelled at this job for 21 years, in particular during the turbulent years of the Vietnam War and strikes on campus. Those who were in the department during the years when Phil was Associate Chair remember with great admiration the prose and (sometimes subtle) humor of his many memos.

With rapidly increasing enrollments in pre-calculus courses, Phil decided in 1987 to move to the new position of Pre-Calculus Supervisor. For 12 years, he guided our pre-calculus offerings, later to include courses in quantitative reasoning, with skill and foresight.

Hiroshi Gunji

In addition to the retirements last summer, Hiroshi Gunji has retired at the end of 2000 fall semester. Hiroshi received the M.S. in 1956 from the University of Tokyo (Japan) and the PhD in 1962 from the Johns Hopkins University. His PhD thesis ``Some properties of curves of genus 2 representing singular points of variety of moduli'' was guided by Jun-ichi Igusa. He spent two years at Cornell University and two years at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) before joining our Department in 1966. At Madison he had 4 PhD students.

Hiroshi's work as chair of the graduate admissions and fellowship committee for so many years was so very important for our graduate program. He was a regular and admired lecturer in our calculus sequence. Hiroshi's research interests are in number theory. Recently he was interested in cubic Diophantine equations of type x3+y3 = A studying, for a given integer n, the possibility of constructing all integers A for which the equation has n solutions. A famous example of this due to Ramanjuan is A = 1729 where (10,9) and (12,1) are solutions. A dinner in Hiroshi's honor was organized by the algebraists in December, 2000 with 24 colleagues and spouses participating.

We are extremely grateful to all our retirees for all their service, in the many important forms it took, to the department, the university, and the profession. We wish them a continued good and happy life pursuing their mathematical and other interests.

[Thanks to Georgia Benkart, Jake Levin, Don Passman, and Dietrich Uhlenbrock for some contributions to this story.]

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