Wednesday, April 28, 2010

  • Math founder Ralph Stanton dies at 86
  • Grad conference continues, and other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Math founder Ralph Stanton dies at 86

Ralph Stanton (above), who founded Waterloo’s faculty of mathematics and saw his taste for pink neckties turned into a math tradition, has died at the age of 86.

Stanton left this university in 1967 and spent most of his remaining years at the University of Manitoba, but his early contributions at Waterloo took first place when a colleague, Neil Arnason of U of M, sent out word of his death to colleagues in the Statistical Society of Canada: “Many of you know him because of his seminal influence in building the first North American Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo.

“He then went on to York University for three years, before coming to the University of Manitoba in 1970 where he built the Department of Computer Science. He continued his research and teaching here after resigning the headship in 1989 and had only this month announced his retirement.

“Up to the end he was a prolific researcher and publisher in the areas of graph theory and  combinatorial designs, especially covering and packing designs  and pair-wise balanced designs.

“A brief academic history can be found at the University of Waterloo Library, where he donated his papers in 2004. He was an avid bibliophile, amassing one of the world's largest private collections of classical Portuguese literature, which he donated to the University of Toronto in 1988.

“He had a profound influence on the lives of many statisticians of my generation, including myself, Jerry Lawless, the Kalbfleisch brothers, Ross Prentice, John Koval. He was one of the great builders of academic programs in mathematics, statistics and computer science and his entrepreneurial energy and vision created opportunities for countless students in these disciplines. He was also an unforgettable character and a great friend.”

It’s perhaps no coincidence that a Waterloo faculty member, Bovas Abraham, is president of the Statistical Society of Canada this year.

Stanton returned to Waterloo from time to time over the past four decades, and was the guest speaker at a banquet in 2007 celebrating the mathematics faculty’s 40th anniversary. During that visit he also gave a public talk for a mostly student audience, telling some anecdotes of the olden days. "I'm one of the fast dwindling group of people who were around in 1957," he said then, recalling his arrival as one of the first faculty members for Waterloo College Associate Faculties in that founding year, and the emergence of the University of Waterloo a little later.

He told his audience that he was one of five faculty who served on an Academic Advisory Committee in 1958. "We took it upon ourselves actually to advise — not only to advise, but to urge," he said. At a historic meeting, the committee pressed the board of governors to buy the "Schweitzer farm" on the outskirts of Waterloo, which eventually became today's main campus.

Stanton became chair of the department of mathematics, then in the faculty of arts, and in the late 1960s led the effort to establish it as a separate faculty. “Stanton's dream and goal from the beginning was to make Mathematics a separate Faculty,” says the narrative “Unbundling  Computer History”, published on the UW library’s web site. “In his view, Mathematics belonged neither in Arts nor in Science; it was a distinct discipline, and had grown sufficiently to become a Faculty on its own. The struggle with Arts and Science to release the Department of Mathematics was difficult by all accounts.”

The question came at last to the UW senate, which eventually gave its approval. Math became an independent faculty July 1, 1967, just as Stanton left on sabbatical leave, and statistics professor David Sprott — who had been one of Stanton’s PhD students — became the first dean.

Among the people Stanton hired for Waterloo was Wes Graham, now recalled as the pioneer of computing at this university. “Wes was an old friend of mine,” Stanton told an interviewer for the library’s oral history in 2003. “I had taught him as an undergraduate, I had taught him as a graduate student, I had stayed in close touch with him when he went to IBM. When I wanted someone who had some industrial experience, he was the first person I thought of — not so much in connection with IBM as in connection with actual physical computers, which he knew well at that time.”

Stanton introduced computers to classroom teaching at Waterloo in 1960 and introduced co-op programs in applied mathematics and computer science. He served as the university’s first dean of graduate studies, from 1962 to 1966. Waterloo awarded him an honorary degree in May 1997.

“Ralph always preferred an uncomplicated life,” writes retired faculty member Peter Ponzo, “and asked for little more than a shelf of good books, his stamp collection, a little good food, and some congenial company. His 61-year academic career was marked by many achievements and honours, and he will long be remembered for his teaching, mentorship and supervisory skills, and for his philanthropic generosity.”

He adds: “Among Ralph’s favourite philanthropic activities were three non-profit corporations that he founded and continued to administer until his death. Utilitas Mathematica Publishing was started in the early 1970s, publishing conference proceedings in mathematics and scientific computing. UMPI was followed by the Charles Babbage Research Centre, set up to promote conferences and facilitate the publication of research. Ralph’s ultimate enterprise was the Institute of Combinatorics and Its Applications.”

Ralph Stanton died April 21 at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital.

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Grad conference continues, and other notes

The Graduate Student Research Conference continues today, with presentations including "Heat Shock Protein 70 in Rainbow Trout Blood" (by Lynsi Henrickson of biology) and "Monitoring Oil Reservoir Deformations by Measuring Ground Surface Movements" (Kamelia Atefi Monfared, civil engineering). There's just one keynote lecture on today's agenda, as Gerry Wright of the Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University will speak at 1 p.m. A full schedule is online. The conference — mostly in the Davis Centre — continues through Friday.

Also happening today is the one-day "Opportunities and New Directions" conference on research in teaching and learning. "The event features around 25 presentations and posters by over 60 researchers from a range of disciplines and career stages, from UW and beyond," says Shannon Dea of the philosophy department, one of the faculty organizers. "They will present research on everything from student note-taking and the Socratic teaching method to the use of e-portfolios and iClickers. Some of the other session topics include graduate student leadership, faculty engagement in teaching, mobile devices as classroom aids, virtual field trips, the effect of the instructor’s voice pitch on student learning, and developing research skills through co-op placements. A noteworthy change to the conference this year is the addition of a combined poster session and wine and cheese reception where conference attendees will be able to peruse at their leisure such projects as Jennifer Roberts-Smith’s 'Bring your own theatre’: negotiating student engagement in the transition from affect to analysis in first-year Theatre Studies' and Rudy Peariso’s engagingly titled 'Saving the planet, one assignment at a time'. The closing wine and cheese will also see the official launch of the book from last year’s conference, entitled Opportunities and New Directions: Canadian Scholarship of Teaching and Learning."

Here's news from Janet Hahn in South Campus Hall: "The Offices of Development & Alumni Affairs team 'Climbing for Critters' once again did their part by hauling up all 1,776 steps of the CN Tower in support of World Wildlife Fund on April 15. The team consisted of Chantel Franklin, Janet Hahn, Kim Bast and Lauren Burgess, and we successfully managed to raise a whopping $1,960 and completed the climb in under 23 minutes! This wouldn't have been possible without the support and donations that we received from all our colleagues and friends. This was the 20th year for the climb and a record-breaking year for climber participation. The two-day event consisted of a Team Challenge on Thursday, April 15, and a Public Climb on Saturday, April 17. With strong support and participation in both climbs, WWF Canada is well on its way of reaching its fundraising goal of $1.2 million. Its mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. You may see us training on the stairs at the Dana Porter Library throughout the year, and we would love to see more UW colleagues climbing with us next year."

The staff association is offering its members corporate membership cards for GoodLife Fitness, priced at $400 plus tax for the 2010-11 year. • It takes "less than a minute" to complete the current survey asking undergraduate students what they think of their dental plan, the Federation of Students claims. • Monday's Daily Bulletin referred to the recently incinerated candy store as Magic Mountain; in fact, it was Sugar Mountain.


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Link of the day

National day of mourning

When and where

Microsoft speaker: Allen Stewart, Windows Server and Solutions Group, “Windows Server Platform Strategy” 10 a.m., Math and Computer room 5158.

All Science Challenge for students in grades 6-8, today. Details.

Health services closed for staff training Wednesday morning, will open 1 p.m.

Advances in Health Informatics Conference 2010 hosted by NIHI, WIHIR, and schools of optometry and pharmacy, Wednesday-Friday, Health Sciences Campus, Kitchener. Details.

Accelerator Centre “graduation” for client company Karos Health, 10 a.m., 295 Hagey Boulevard.

Holocaust Education Committee and Waterloo Region District School Board diversity event, 11:30, Humanities Theatre.

‘The Quantum Tamers’ documentary film, question period with Institute for Quantum Computing director Ray Laflamme, 6 p.m., Minto Centre, Carleton University, Ottawa.

Fee payment deadline for spring term is April 29 (bank transfer). Details.

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference April 29-30, Ryerson University, Toronto. Details.

UW International Spouses potluck lunch Thursday 12:45, Columbia Lake Village community centre. Details.

Water Institute hosts researchers from Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany, for presentations and signing of a memorandum of understanding,  Thursday from 1:30 p.m., CEIT room 1015, concluding with reception 5:15 p.m.

Chemical engineering seminar: Chunshan Song, Pennsylvania State University, “Selective Adsorption for Removing Sulfur for Ultra-Clean Fuels” Thursday 3:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Engineering alumni and friends reception, “Designing the Future” Thursday 6:30 p.m., Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum. Details.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Bruce Riedel, terrorism expert and White House advisor, “Obama’s War: Prospects for the Conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan” Thursday 7:00, 57 Erb Street West.

Bookstore and other retail services outlets in South Campus Hall and Student Life Centre closed Friday for inventory.

‘European Integration: Past, Present and Future’ conference at Wilfrid Laurier University, Friday-Saturday. Details.

Gourmet Trail 2010 tour of local restaurants in support of KidsLink, beginning with champagne reception at Federation Hall, Saturday, tickets $100. Details.

DaCapo Chamber Choir, based at Conrad Grebel University College, spring concert Saturday 8:00, details to be announced.

Spring term classes begin Monday, May 3.

Weight Watchers at Work spring series begins May 6, 12:00, Humanities room 373; call ext. 32218 to register.

Canada 3.0 digital media conference sponsored by Stratford Institute and Canadian Digital Media Network, May 10-11, Stratford. Details.

Retirees Association bus tour, “Wineries of the Beamsville Bench” May 12, details 519-885-6719.

President David Johnston Run for Mental Health May 18. Details.

You @ Waterloo Day for applicants considering offers of admission, May 20, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., headquarters at Student Life Centre. Details.

Victoria Day holiday Monday, May 24, UW offices and most services closed, classes not held.

Retirees Association spring luncheon May 27, 11:30, Sunshine Centre, Luther Village, tickets $25, information 519-888-0334.

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Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department:

• Residence life coordinator, housing, USG 7
• Patrol officer, police and parking services, USG 7

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