Annual Newsletter of the University of Wisconsin Math Department

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2004 Van Vleck Notes

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Six Retirees Feted at
Faculty and Staff Dinner

R. Turner, R. Askey, M. Certain, D. Rider,
C. deBoor, S. Bauman

Our annual dinner was held on May 6, 2003 on top of Van Vleck Hall. Six retirees were honored for their service to the Department of Mathematics, the College of Letters and Sciences, and UW-Madison: Richard Askey, Steven Bauman, Carl de Boor, Melinda Certain, Daniel Rider, and Robert Turner. The combined total years of service adds up to a whopping 200 years! Each of the retirees is now enjoying emeritus status, and some are regularly in Van Vleck Hall keeping up with professional and departmental activities.

Richard Askey received the PhD from Princeton University in 1961. He spent 2 years as Dickson Instructor at the University of Chicago before coming to Madison as an Assistant Professor in 1963. He became (full) Professor in 1968. In 1986 he was named the Gabor Szegö Professor of Mathematics, and in 1995 he was awarded the John Bascom Professorship in Mathematics by the University. Dick is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Dick Askey is the world's foremost authority on Special Functions and he has had a profound influence on that subject. His dedication to Mathematics and Mathematics Education is unsurpassed. Besides a great number of papers, Dick has also written or edited 6 books, including ``Special Functions'' (with G. Andrews and R. Roy) which was published by Cambridge University Press in 1999. This 650 page book contains a wealth of information and is destined to become a classic.

Several people spoke about Dick at the dinner, and not to be outdone, Dick had some parting comments.

As Ken Ono said, Dick being the world authority on special functions, means hypergeometric functions and basic hypergeometric series. He (along with Wilson) are responsible for completely developing new sets of orthogonal polynomials. Over the last few decades, these results and Askey's `scheme' for classifying relationships between such functions have played important roles in a striking number of areas. Ken went on to say that one way to measure the influence of a mathematician and the quality of his work is through the theorems he did not prove but the theorems proven using his work and `his school'. This includes, among others:

  1. de Branges' solution of the Bieberbach Conjecture.
  2. Proof of the irrationality of zeta(3) more recently the irrationality of infinitely many values of zeta at odd integers.
  3. Applications to the study of quantum groups.
  4. Algebraic geometry of `hypergeometric varieties' (i.e. rigid Calabi-Yau varieties).
  5. Arithmetic formula for the Eichler-Selberg trace formula (an important player in Deligne's proof of the Weil Conjectures).

Longtime collaborator George E. Andrews sent a message to be read where he thanked Dick for the countless ways he has aided him in his career, saying that there was probably an army of mathematicians who would echo his sentiment. George went on to say that he has come to regard Dick not only as a generous, outstanding, and insightful mathematician, but also as a saint for his work on Mathematics Education in the USA. George concluded by saying that whenever his wife suggests that he is travelling a little too much, he responds with: Ïf you think I travel a lot, let me tell you about Dick's schedule!"

Bruce Berndt [PhD 1966, R. Smart] was at the dinner and offered some remarks. He related what a good decision he made in choosing Wisconsin for graduate work, saying that otherwise his life would have gone in a much different direction, and would not have been so rewarding and fulfilling as it is now. He also told about the bad decision he made, namely, as a graduate student dropping a course that Dick Askey was teaching on special functions. He said that he had attended Dick's lectures for one or two weeks, and asked himself why all these hypergeometric function formulas were interesting. He said he made a huge mistake for now he knows why all these formulas are interesting. While he later learned the mathematics that was covered in the course, what he missed were all the insights that Dick brought to the subject. As Bruce put it: ``Dick has a vast knowledge of the history of special functions, and his ability to place theorems in an historical context enormously increases one's understanding and appreciation of the subject''; ``Dick has a wonderful ability to put results in a broader framework so that one can see how results fit into a more comprehensive view of mathematics''; ``Dick always emphasizes how good proofs are `natural', and this also leads to greatly increased understanding.''

In a message to faculty following the retirement dinner, Dick thanked many people for helping make the forty years he and his wife Liz have been in Madison so pleasant. He said that the intellectual level of the Math Department has been high since well before he got here, and continues to be high as he retires. He wished the younger members of the department the best and hope that when they retire they will look back on their time here as he does and conclude that they never could have predicted how they would develop because of the intellectual climate here and that the time here went so fast that they don't know where it went.


Steve Bauman received the PhD in Mathematics from the University of Illinois in 1962, and then spent two years as an instructor at Princeton University. He joined the faculty of the Department of Mathematics as an Assistant Professor in 1964, becoming (full) Professor in 1976. During his career at Madison, he held visiting positions at Northwestern University and Spelman College. Over the span of thirty-eight years, Steve's contributions to research and his dedication to education and service have been very important to the Department.

Steve's early contributions to research focussed on finite group theory, covering such topics as automorphism groups, nonsolvable and solvable groups, and composition series. Six graduate students wrote PhD dissertations under his guidance.

Georgia Benkart spoke of Steve's legendary contributions to education and service to the Department and the University. He served as the Teaching Assistant Supervisor for many years and was on the various departmental committees concerned with graduate students and teaching assistants. He planned, organized, and conducted our very successful summer training program for international teaching assistants. He served on the Faculty Senate many times and was a strong advocate of faculty rights and responsibilities.

Steve's devotion to students and education is vividly illustrated by his many campus-wide activities such as: Mentor in the Chancellor's Scholar Program, Fellow of the Bradley Learning Community and member of the Bradley Hall Steering Committee, and elected Fellow of the Campus Teaching Academy. He often taught classes in Bradley Hall in an environment which promoted learning and inquiry. Steve's skill as lecturer and teacher was well known by students. In 1992 he received the prestigious Wisconsin Power and Light Underkoefler Teaching Award. This was followed in 1996 with the Distinguished Teaching Award given by the Wisconsin Section of the Mathematics Association of America. His interest in teaching led him to organize a seminar in mathematics education which was regularly
attended by both faculty and graduate students.

Perhaps the most famous ``Bauman story'' is this: In 1989 when the Bauman's house caught on fire, the fire department phoned to notify Steve. Ann Caruso ran down to his calculus lecture in B102 to tell him. Steve explained to the class that he was going to have to leave because his house was on fire - but first he finished the problem he was solving. As Georgia said, it seems appropriate that the department confer on Steve a title he has earned - ``the Hero and Nero of Calculus.''


Carl de Boor came to UW-Madison in 1972 as Professor of Mathematics and Computer Sciences and as a member of the Mathematics Research Center. He received the PhD in 1966 from the University of Michigan where the Chair of his PhD Committee was R.C. Bartels [PhD 1938, I. Sokolnikoff]. Carl worked as an Associate Senior Research Mathematician at the General Motors Research Laboratories from 1960 to 1964, and was an Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Sciences at Purdue University before coming to Madison. In 1983 Carl was awarded the P. L. Chebyshev Professorship of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, and in 1987 he was honored with the Steenbock Professorship of Mathematical Sciences. Carl's publication list is extensive including 4 books. He had 2 PhD students at Purdue and 8 at UW-Madison.

Carl is a worldwide leader and authority in the theory and application of splines (piecewise polynomials), which play a decisive role in computer-aided design and manufacturing and many other applied areas. He was awarded the John von Neumann Prize by SIAM in 1996. In 1993 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and in 1997 to the National Academy of Sciences. Carl also is a member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher (1998) and a foreign member of the Poland Academy of Sciences (2000). He holds honorary doctorates from Purdue University (1993) and the Technion in Israel (2002).

At the dinner Hans Schneider spoke of his and his wife Miriam's long standing friendship with Carl and its possible basis in the shared experience of the turmoil in the Europe of their youth. In Carl's case this included flight from his home and hunger nearing starvation after World War 2, and then difficulty in being admitted to high school and university in East Germany. Hans speculated that these experiences may have been a spur to Carl's huge achievements as a research mathematician.

While Carl and his wife Helen have moved to a beautiful new home on Orcas Island off the mainland of Washington State, he maintains a small condominium in Madison for what we hope will be frequent visits.


Melinda Certain came to Madison as a graduate student in 1965, along with her husband Phil Certain who came as a graduate student in Chemistry (and is now the Dean of the College of Letters & Sciences). She received the PhD in 1974 with a dissertation supervised by Richard Askey. Melinda was an AAUW postdoc at the Mathematics Research Center and then a Lecturer in the Mathematics Department. In 1983-84 and 1987-88, she worked as a statistical consultant for Wisconsin Power and Light, and was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Lawrence University in Appleton from 1984 to 1986.

Since 1988 Dr. Certain has been a Faculty Associate in the Department of Mathematics and has spent many of those years as the Director of our very successful Wisconsin Emerging Scholars Program (WES). As Director, Melinda has mentored and inspired graduate students who are interested in good teaching. At the dinner, Yvonne Nagel told how many graduate students who are interested in teaching as well as research have benefitted greatly from their contact with Melinda. During her tenure as WES director, she supervised 31 graduate students and about 50 undergraduate assistants hired to work with the WES students. TAs in the WES program uniformly have praised the training and mentoring they received and their WES experience, and speak of Melinda's infectious enthusiasm for teaching. In 2003 she received the Chancellor's Hilldale Award for Academic Staff in recognition of her outstanding work as a teacher and director of WES (see photo above).

For many years, Melinda also organized the MegaMath meets for high school students in Dane County outside Madison. The number of students participating in these meets has increased over the years, attesting to their popularity. In addition to her work at the University, Melinda has been involved with the board of Preschool of the Arts, served on committees at her church, and been an active member of the Rotary Club.


Dan Rider received his PhD from UW-Madison in 1964 where his thesis advisor was Walter Rudin. He then left Madison to become a C. L. E. Moore Instructor at MIT and then Assistant Professor at Yale University. He returned to Madison as an Associate Professor in 1968 and was promoted to (full) Professor in 1971.

Dan's research was in the area of harmonic analysis on Abelian groups and compact groups. He was an Alfred P.  Sloan Foundation Fellow from 1969 to 1971, and was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Nice in 1970. At Madison, he had two PhD students. Steve Wainger who, along with Walter Rudin, spoke about Dan related how he owed a debt of gratitude to him. Dick Askey and Steve had proved some theorems about expansions in Legendre polynomials and were hoping to generalize them to expansions in spherical harmonics, When Dan was still a graduate student he obtained some results on spherical harmonics which showed that their proposed generalizations couldn't possibly be true. If it were not for Dan, Steve says he might be still trying to obtain these results!

During his career, Dan provided exemplary service to the Department and University. He was TA Coordinator for 6 years during which time he introduced innovative programs such as shadowing for new international TAs, mentoring of weaker TAs by stronger ones, and videotaping all new TAs with faculty feedback. Dan served on the TA Evaluation Committee for about 20 years and was an undergraduate advisor for many years. Outside the Department he served on the University-TAA Bargaining Committee and the Graduate School Fellowship Committee.


Bob Turner received the PhD in Mathematics from New York University in 1963, where his advisor was K. O.  Friedrichs, and joined our faculty as an Assistant Professor the same year, becoming (full) Professor in 1971. His work covered a broad area of analysis and its applications, including: spectral theory and its applications to differential equations; nonlinear analysis and its global implications; applications in elasticity and fluids, the study of traveling waves in stratified fluids; and more recently, neurophysiological modeling applied to locomotion in the nematode Ascaris suum.

Bob's early work grew out of a study of perturbation of operators with discrete spectra and led to extensions of existing results on boundary value problems for ordinary differential operators. Around 1970 he started investigations on nonlinear operator problems and continued in this vein for many years. More recently, he became involved in neurophysiological modeling and this involved learning many aspects of a new science and taking part in seminars and courses in that area. Bob had a stint doing `wet' laboratory work with worms - somewhat beyond what most mathematicians do in learning about an area of application.

Bob taught many courses in the graduate program areas of partial differential equations, ordinary differential equations, functional analysis, and spectral theory, and had six PhD students. He worked on undergraduate courses in differential equations and linear algebra promoting the use of computers in these courses. For several years, Bob was Graduate Coordinator and Chair of Graduate Advising, and was heavily involved in graduate student recruitment as part of the Admissions Committee. While at Madison, Bob had many invitations to international conferences, in Germany, France, Britain, Brazil, and Italy, to invitations to do short courses on specialized topics in Italy, and to spend years on leave at Oxford University and the University of Pisa.

Bob and his wife, Rosine, are `Italophiles' and now spend 6 months a year in Pisa. (Besides being fluent in Italian, he also learned Mandarin Chinese a number of years ago.) He is an excellent pasta cook and an expert on local mushrooms. (There have been occasions where there was some cautiousness with the `pasta con funghi' he prepared, not only for the quality of the mushrooms, but for the certain resemblance between pasta and worms!)

Paul Rabinowitz, who spoke about Bob at the dinner, told some ``Turner stories.'' Once when Bob had some difficulties with blood circulation in his hands, he sought out a book in the medical library which recommended holding one's hands in a container of warm water while one was lightly dressed in a cool environment. So on a cold and windy day, there was Bob in shirtsleeves on an outside porch, hands in warm water. The result? A bad cold that took some time to get rid of! Another story concerns his ``Mobile Archive Project.'' Being surrounded by a lot of old exams and papers which he thought had to be kept as department records in crowded spaces, he began sending stacks of these papers to people in other departments via campus mail with a letter explaining that the papers were to be kept in circulation by forwarding to another soul. Bob never got any of the papers back, and there was a shortage of campus envelopes in the department!

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