Syracuse University College of Arts and Sciences
Syracuse University
Department of Mathematics

Recollections by Erik Hemmingsen

Hemmings

The Department of Mathematics until 1960

It was my intention to write in some detail about the mathematics done by various former colleagues, but the task was obviously too large and too time consuming. Consequently most of my comments have been about people. Undoubtedly, some worthy people have been omitted and some important incidents skipped; but what follows is all that came to my mind when I was writing, except that some incidents could easily have been elaborated tiresomely much. If I had rewritten this account with the purpose of polishing the English usage, it would not only read more smoothly, but it would contain some of the possibly important omissions. -- Erik Hemmingsen, 25 February 2000.

In the early 1900's and up through the 1920's, the Liberal Arts Department of Mathematics had some real quality. William Henry Metzler, for instance, had found a proof of a conjecture about the relation between the coefficients of the characteristic polynomial of a square matrix and the determinants of some of its minors. Furthermore, he was the one who first pointed out that one could have the transcendental functions of a square matrix simply by substituting it into the appropriate Taylor series. Another, Professor Rowe, had a very fine collection of early books on mathematics, some quite rare, which he left to the University on the condition that they be kept in the Mathematics Seminar Room in the Carnegie Library. There must have been something of a graduate program in mathematics because Floyd Fiske Decker obtained a Ph.D. in it during the 1920's. Decker eventually became a professor in the department and in 1947 was one of just two full professors. He was also the one who founded the evening extension program of the university and directed it very competently during its earliest years.

When I arrived in 1947, my salary as an instructor was the same as Decker's ($3500 a year); the university had not seen fit to respond to the wartime inflation and Decker was being paid what he earned in the 1930's when that sum was a very good salary. When Decker retired in the summer of 1948 or 1949, he gratefully received a job teaching a course at University College, then located just a couple of blocks from downtown Syracuse. One cold snowy day in early December, the buses were not running and Decker walked up the hill home to his house located on Comstock, where there is now a dormitory. He got home, but his heart failed him, and he was hospitalized. I got his evening class to teach, and was curious about his fate anyhow, because I had learned to regard him highly as a colleague and a decent human being. Consequently, I called the hospital a day or two later to ask about him. The voice on the phone told me that Professor Decker is doing as well as can be expected. To this I replied, "And what do you expect?" It was shocking to hear the voice answer, "He is still with us, but probably won't last until supper time." He did not last.

When Decker died, the Department inherited his very extensive mathematics library, much of which was eventually sold to buy numerous volumes of journals to fill the holes in the departmental library.[1] (cf. footnotes at the end). By 1942, however, there was not much mathematical activity at Syracuse University. The American Mathematical Society membership list of that year had four names at Syracuse University: Campbell, Carrol, Cowgill and Decker. Of these, Cowgill was a member of the Engineering School Department of Mathematics, separate from that of the Liberal Arts College. Carrol was the Math-Ed man. Campbell was the department chairman and had written a book on linear algebra which contained some well-known ideas he had discovered for himself and believed new. He died in 1942 or 1943 in a mysterious manner. He vanished. His car and clothing were found at Green Lakes where he often went to swim. The conjecture was that he had drowned and that when his body eventually rose it was caught by one of the underwater ledges that are to be found at some places along the lake.

Campbell's death came at a time when Syracuse University had decided to build its science and Engineering programs. The man who did the building was Finla G. Crawford, who was Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and also the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He hired William T. Martin ("Ted") from MIT to command a clean up of the mathematics departments of which there were three: one in Arts and Sciences, one in Business, and one in Engineering. They were united under Martin.[2] The "old guard" in each of the three departments resented bitterly the changes that were being made. Each department had had people who hoped eventually to become its chairman, and all three departments had people who were being kept at the salary scale of the 1930's while the new appointees were being paid rather better. Martin hired a number of new faculty members almost at once. Charles Loewner, Lipman Bers, and Abe Gelbart came from Brown University as a cluster. But Martin also hired Henry Scheffe, Hans Samelson, and Paul Halmos, plus Ruth Goodman, Kathryn Morgan, Paul Gilbert and Paul Rosenbloom: Goodman with a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Morgan with one from Stanford, Paul Gilbert from Duke and Rosenbloom from California. Goodman and Morgan, plus a significant crew of lesser people were instructors, a rank at which new Ph.D.s were hired at that time. The teaching load for many of these people was 15 hours a week (five three-hour classes). Two of Martin's new instructors, Howard Bennett and Robert Exner, had longer appointments. The rest of the temporary people were hired from year to year. They were all needed because the so-called GI Bill was already sending veterans to college and thousands more would arrive during the next few years. There were of course also numerous graduate assistants. The new mathematicians reacted strongly to the quality of the mathematics collection in the library. I have been told of an early meeting in which Gelbart and Samelson debated how to use the annual book budget of thirty-five dollars. By 1947 the book budget had improved, but not much, and the Mathematics Collection had been moved to what was then a large reading room with a small book collection at the top floor (then fourth) of the Hall of Languages.

The new members of the Department and various others were housed in the basement of the Hall of Languages, where small rooms, broom closets and ends of halls were renovated slightly and converted to offices to be shared among several people. The old engineering mathematicians remained in Smith Hall, then the Engineering Building, and the Business staff remained in Slocum. Graduate students and some instructors had offices in the temporary buildings, now gone, located at various places on the campus. Martin left in 1946 and his replacement, Stewart S. Cairns,[3] a well-known topologist, occupied the Chairman's office when I came. His assistant chairman was Donald Kibbey,[3] who was a fairly new Ph.D. from Illinois-Urbana. In the spring of 1947, Ruth Stokes arrived on the faculty as an assistant professor. She had a Ph.D. from Duke and her thesis was the fundamental paper in what became the theory of linear programming. Unluckily, it is not now given the credit it deserves. She had been dismissed suddenly from a small southern college where she had refused to comply with an unreasonable administrative decision. Pi Mu Epsilon was founded at Syracuse University in the 1920's and grew to become the national honorary mathematics fraternity for undergraduates. Ruth Stokes was the editor of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal when I came to Syracuse in 1947, and remained in that job for a number of years. The other day I discovered that the current editor is Brigitte Servatius, who received her Ph.D. in 1987 from Syracuse.

Samelson, Scheffe, and Halmos left at the end of the spring of 1947 or earlier. I was hired for the fall of 1947 and arrived at the same time as Nancy Cole, Eckford Cohen, Harry Goheen, George D. Mostow,[4] Arthur Milgram and Murray Protter. (Possibly Cohen and Mostow arrived a year later.) Paul Erdös was also at Syracuse when I came. He may have come a semester or two earlier. My first several days were quite interesting. I had many new people to meet. Only Erdös, Goodman, and Milgram were old acquaintances. On the first day of my teaching I encountered in the Mathematics Office a discussion between a mature lady (instructor) and a graduate student about how many roots there could be to a polynomial equation in one variable of degree n with real coefficients. The lady kept insisting that mathematicians might not have found them all yet, and the graduate student and I tried various proofs of the correct result on her; but in vain. She was not convinced.

On my third day I arrived on campus to find Kibbey looking for me. He was the man who did the scheduling of classes and teachers. Kibbey told me that my schedule had been changed, and that in about twenty minutes I would be meeting a class in Engineering Mechanics. I was chosen because I had spent a little over three years as a physicist at the Naval Air Experimental Station. In a hurry, I went to get a copy of the text, looked at it for a very few minutes and went off to class. On the blackboard there, I wrote my name, office number, and office hours. When I turned towards the class I got the warmest welcome I have ever experienced. The cause was the behavior two days earlier of the professor originally assigned to the class. He had begun his first class by pointing to the three students sitting in the center of the front row and saying that he could tell a good prospective engineer when he saw one. Those three would not pass his course because he could tell that they were incompetent. Then he looked the class over only to stop at a man sitting in the back row, who was wearing an army shirt but civilian pants. He delivered the usual army lecture about wearing either an entire uniform or else no part of one. He went on to say that he had been a major in the regular army at a time when that was a relatively high rank and that Eisenhower had been his lieutenant. The student answered him, so I was later told, by saying: "Major Smith (not his real name), it is a pleasure to meet you. I am Colonel Jones and when we talk about military matters you will address me as 'Colonel' and you will use the word 'Sir' in the appropriate parts of your statement!" The professor was shocked. He turned on his heel, walked out of the classroom and never met another class. I got two of his sections of mathematics, Harry Goheen got the other two.

I now interrupt to comment on the faculty in the department. Loewner was a very distinguished analyst. One of the many things he had done was eventually used as a major stepping stone in the proof of the Bieberbach Conjecture. He later became a professor at Stanford, which paid him, when he came, eleven thousand dollars a year, a sum that compared very favorably with his salary of seven thousand at Syracuse. Bers was also an analyst (and student of Loewner's). He had done some outstanding work with Gelbart. When he left in 1950 he went to NYU from which he moved to Columbia. In the 1970's he was the president of the American Mathematical Society.[5] Gelbart had done some elegant work with Bers in the early 1940's. Later--well into the 1950's--he became graduate dean at Yeshiva College. Milgram had been at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton during the year 1946-47. He came there from the University of Notre Dame, where he had taught since about 1937 when he got his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His principal interest was topology, but he had also written an elegant little book on Galois Theory by using my notes on Artin's lectures. The book appeared under Artin's name. At Syracuse he was developing an interest in partial differential equations, which he was working on when he died at the University of Minnesota. Rosenbloom worked in analysis. A paper he wrote (in French) at Syracuse won a prize for being the most elegant thing in that language sometime in the 1940's. When he got out of high school, he entered the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science to become a druggist. There he misunderstood what his teacher in a "cultural course" had said about the volumes of Principia Mathematica by Russell and Whitehead (that attempted to establish a logical foundation for mathematics). Rosenbloom believed that he was being told that these volumes contained all of mathematics, so that he got them and began to read. Well into volume II he got stuck and was referred to the University of Pennsylvania (also in Philadelphia) for help. At Penn. he was greeted with welcome and amazement and persuaded to come there for an undergraduate degree in mathematics. They shipped him West for a Ph.D. He eventually wrote a small book on logic and, when he transferred to the University of Minnesota, worked on partial differential equations. In the 1960's he became interested in high school education problems, and moved to Teacher's College Columbia.

Nancy Cole had a Ph.D. in the Calculus of Variations, from Marston Morse. She did no mathematics at Syracuse, but was an excellent teacher and a fine colleague.[6] Ruth Goodman had a Ph.D. about 1944 in Complex Variables from the University of Pennsylvania. About 1949 she moved to Duquesne University, where she used her maiden name, O'Donnel. In 1964 she was at Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute, Indiana. Harry Goheen had worked at the Harvard Computation Labs before he came to Syracuse, and had computation as his principal interest. His appointment was not renewed in 1950, and he had a job offer of an associate professorship at Oregon State University. There was, however, a final paragraph in the offer letter stating that the offer was being made subject to the final approval of University's Board of Trustees. The Board did not approve of appointments that year, an action that left Goheen with no job for the fall. Fortunately, he found a job and he eventually got the one that had fallen through, but only after several years of grief. Murray Protter was a student of Bers at Brown. He worked on problems in analysis. In 1950 he moved to the University of California (Berkeley) where he got to be an editor of the Proceedings of the AMS and also wrote a calculus book. Eckford Cohen was a student of Carlitz at Duke. His appointment was not renewed in 1950. From Syracuse he moved to the Institute for Advanced Study, and then to the University of Tennessee.

Kathryn Morgan got a Ph.D. in number theory at Stanford under Uspensky in 1946. While she did no research, she taught calculus and number theory well, and she rendered valuable service as assistant chair, doing course scheduling, etc. Paul Gilbert had a Ph.D. in topology from Duke University. For many years he was Kibbey's man in charge of undergraduate mathematics majors, and he was also the one who carried on the technical details of the mathematics department's relations with the several off-campus programs. He was a remarkably fine teacher of both undergraduate courses and first year graduate courses. He published no research papers, but maintained an active interest in several branches of mathematics, so that for a time he was the department's teacher and investigator of numerical analysis. Three Ph.D. dissertations were written under his direction in this subject. Otway O. Pardee had a Ph.D. from Stanford in electrical engineering. He was hired by Cairns in the year 1948, and had at that time an interest in certain partial differential equations. Much later, when Hans Maehli and Werner Rheinboldt resigned, Otway became the director of the university's computer center. As such, he was later moved to the School of Computer Science when it was established. Even later, when the University finally put its budget onto a modern computer from which information could be had when needed by administrators, it was Pardee who did the work of getting the numbers into the machine, a big job.

Howard Bennett had a master's degree from Syracuse, had been some years in China as a missionary and had come back at a time when reasonably competent teachers of elementary algebra and analytic geometry were very scarce. He was an excellent teacher of these subjects and eventually retired. Robert Exner had been a graduate student at Columbia before World War II, and had taken a job in the American Southwest because his wife had developed tuberculosis. He was a welcome addition to our list of instructors and eventually earned a Ph.D. under Arthur Milgram. He ended as a professor of Mathematics Education in which capacity he wrote and argued hard for the teaching of some formal logic in high schools. He got into logic because he had been teaching our course in mathematics for the generally disinterested freshman, a course which then began with a section on logic. It was Exner who educated some of us on modern logic, the work of Gödel, and their relation to what we were teaching about mathematics. I, myself, never agreed that high school students or university freshmen should spend much time on logic, but I found Exner a very good and very informative colleague. As a consequence of his involvement with logic at the trivial level, Exner set about finding out what logic was really all about. For years he was involved in writing a curriculum with a group in Southern Illinois, a curriculum that taught grade eight or grade nine some extensive formal logic and then went on to teach them a great deal of mathematics. He remained at Syracuse until he retired.

Bruns was a German refugee who knew a fair amount of mathematics. He taught a course in Vector Analysis for physics students and several sections of calculus. Stewart S. Cairns was department chairman from 1946 to 1948.[7] He had been a professor at Lehigh University before that, and he had been a very good topologist. He had many well-placed friends in the AMS and in the National Science Foundation from whom we got very welcome financial grants. All colloquium speakers were entertained after their talk at the Cairns home on Ackerman Avenue. Faculty and graduate students were expected to come for the evening and to enjoy simple refreshments served with large quantities of alcohol. Cairns left in 1949 to become department chairman at the University of Illinois. Gelbart had spent the year 1947-48 at the Institute for Advanced Study, where he got to know Atle Selberg. Gelbart brought him to Syracuse in the fall of 1948. Selberg was one of a family of four mathematicians (father and three sons) in Norway. He had become well known for finding the best bounds (to that date) of the zeroes of the Riemann zeta function near the critical line. He came with his wife, Hedy, who taught numerical analysis for us, and was the person for whom the Mathematics Department broke the University's rule against hiring both man and wife to teach. In 1950 Selberg left to become a permanent member of the Institute. While he was at Syracuse he found an "elementary" proof of the prime number theorem for which Erdős undeservedly grabbed a great deal of the credit.

In 1948 the Department also hired Michael Rosskopf to replace Carrol, who had been the mathematics education professor. Rosskopf had gotten a Ph.D. in mathematics under Tamarkin at Brown University during the late 1930's when no jobs were available either in college or university teaching, had obtained a high school job, and had become a recognized expert in Teacher Education. Rosskopf left Syracuse in 1950 to go to Teacher's College Columbia, where he was very highly regarded. He was so much liked there that they decided to get another "real" mathematician and eventually fell upon our old colleague Paul Rosenbloom. Bers once told me that Rosenbloom had inquired about the possibility of a transfer to the Department of Mathematics at Columbia and had been rejected. At the end of the academic year 1947-48 the department chairman, Cairns, left to become chairman at the University of Illinois. A search for a new chairman was begun and a couple of candidates including Mahlon Day were brought to campus, but no satisfactory appointment seemed possible. Kibbey asserted that, at some point, Gelbart was offered the job but he declined. The problem, in large part, was that very sharp dissension had split the department several ways. Kibbey was an obvious candidate for the job and it was he who carried out the day-to-day administration of the department as soon as Cairns left. Exner, Gilbert, and Morgan supported Kibbey in the matter. The senior members of the Department (Bers, Loewner, Gelbart and Milgram) wanted a well-known mathematician of some sort to have the job, so that they rejected Kibbey strongly.

In the summer of 1949 two important events occurred: The department moved from the Hall of Languages to Smith Hall and the College of Liberal Arts got a full time dean, Eric Faigle. Smith Hall had been the Engineering School Building. When I first arrived at Syracuse and for several years thereafter, the very top floor, behind windows that can be seen on what looks like a penthouse on the rooftop, was the Engineering Drawing Room. It was useful for its purpose because natural light came in from all four sides. The move improved our facilities very much. The classrooms were much better and our Mathematics Library got its own location, the second floor southwest room of the building. A couple of years later the library expanded into the second floor northwest room right next door and our collection of mathematics journals was moved from the main Library (the Carnegie Building). Some teachers of engineering mathematics had for many years occupied office space in Smith and, as they resigned or retired their offices also became available. When the Mathematics Library moved out of the Hall of Languages, the Humanities departments requested that the fourth floor branch library and reading room there be maintained for their students in that building. However, the University saw a need for a large classroom and waited until almost no one was around after the end of summer session. Then the books and shelving were removed.

Comments on the Math and S.U. Library:

By the time the complete mathematics collection was moved to Smith Hall, it became possible to make a careful inventory of the journal holdings. There it turned out that a number of subscriptions must have been canceled during the depression years 1929-1942 because there were gaps in various serials corresponding to these dates. Fortunately, these were also the dates of the holdings of various mathematicians who passed away from 1946 to 1954 and whose accumulated sets of journals could fill our gaps. The problem was to get funds to buy with. In part, much was bought because of the budgetary arrangements of the library head. Each department had in his records a sum of money that could be spent for that department and each department had a library representative who was supposed to request the ordering of books or serials. When this money was unspent at the end of the year, it could not be carried over for next year. It was grabbed by the central administration and was used as an argument for keeping the acquisitions budget down. I therefore got phone calls from the library director near the end of the fiscal year saying, "Can you spend a couple of thousand dollars quickly without too much paper work?" In other words, a long list of desired books was not wanted. That would take too long to get typed up and otherwise prepared. I was supposed to supply a couple only of big orders to be bought from booksellers who were known to have the items in stock. Another source of funds was the Mathematics Library of Triple Cities College, founded by Syracuse University during the year of the big enrollment of veterans and eventually bought by the State of New York to be renamed S.U.N.Y. Binghamton. The library there had been priced as a separate item, and was rejected by the state. I beat on enough doors to get it and used it to exchange with various booksellers for items we needed. The value was quite a number of thousand dollars. There was also other money around that could be had at the cost of some hours digging.

The first day I visited the mathematics collection at the top floor of the Hall of Languages I noticed a number of very old books now all in the Rare Book Room in the main Library. Of these I chose the most prominent, the first Latin edition of Descartes' Analytic Geometry dated in the 1630's and printed by the famous Dutch printer, Elzevir. I took the book to what was then the Rare Book room in what was to become the Arents Room in Carnegie. There the elderly gentleman (Mr. Wells) looked at the book and said, "It is quite old, but here we only keep books by important people or important printers." I responded that the book was an original Descartes and printed by Elzevir. He said in effect, "Who are they? We cannot put the book here." I put the book back where I got it, where it stayed until Wells retired and had been replaced. Then I took it over again. This time the librarian took one look at the cover of the book under my arm, rose from his desk and grabbed the book. When he saw what was being offered he said, "You cannot keep this. We want it here now!" When he heard that it had been sitting on the open shelves for years, he wondered what else we had. He got some. Mark Weimer picked up the rest in the 1980's. When the old head librarian, Wharton Miller, retired I was put on the search committee for his replacement. That committee came up with Wayne Yenawine as its first choice. Yenawine and I had only one major disagreement. He wanted Mathematical Reviews to be kept in the Reference Section of the Main Library, where its catalog number assigned it to be kept. I was incredulous and he backed off. I found a set of the Reviews that could be bought cheaply, thereby solving the disagreement. Yenawine bought this extra set from his budget and it was kept in the Main Library for years. Now I think it occupies some shelving in the Arents Room. Fortunately, he did not know about either the Jahrbuch or the Fortschritte. The Mathematics Library has had a number of librarians, all of whom have been nice folks. The first had trouble getting all the issues in a given year of a journal ready for binding. She could not count. Of the exceptionally competent ones there were the lady who kept turtles in the library (Louise Walker), Marta Dose, and Nancy Rude.[8]


The appointment of Faigle as dean sealed the fate of the Mathematics Department as we knew it then. In a publication that came out years later, Lipman Bers made the comment that Syracuse University did not know how to preserve a first class department. I must confess that it would have taken an astute and very diplomatic dean to rescue the situation, but I believe that this would have been possible. Certainly, Faigle was not the man for that job. In the fall of 1949 about a dozen of us were called to Faigle's office to be told that he wanted us to pull together like the members of a good athletic team. These were the terms in which his mind worked. He had been some kind of an undergraduate athlete, had become an assistant professor of Geography, had been an assistant dean for years and was being given a chance to make good. His meeting with us cast a pall on our hopes for moving forward as a department. No one expected much from a geographer who would talk as the dean did About a month later I met Faigle on a path on campus, and he stopped me to ask whether Milgram was planning to leave Syracuse. I had studied under Milgram when I was a student at Notre Dame and the presumption was that I would know about such plans. It was all news to me, even to Milgram when I told him about my meeting with the dean. Towards the end of the first semester, Kay Morgan was notified that her appointment would be renewed, while Eckford Cohen and Harry Goheen were notified that their contracts would not be renewed. Since she was not active in research, a number of people interpreted the action as a direct attack on the group that opposed the appointment of Kibbey as chairman.

Just before the end of the Spring 1950 semester a job candidate, William A. Pierce, arrived with a new Ph.D. from Harvard, recommended by his teachers as being as good as Danny Mostow. The Departmental Executive Committee (three of Bers, Gelbart, Loewner, and Milgram) voted not to hire him, but Kibbey had by then received permission to staff our evening classes for the fall and hired Pierce for that purpose. The International Congress of Mathematicians was held at Harvard in 1950. Late in the spring semester, Kibbey asked me in to his office in order to find out whether I was going to the Congress. When I said that I was, he told me that my expenses in going would be paid by the university. I was astonished but grateful. The rule had been that expenses would be paid only if a paper was going to be presented and I was not presenting anything. When I got to the Congress, I met Bill Pierce, who was working for Harvard getting those attending into their dormitory rooms and otherwise running errands for the Harvard faculty, who were hosts. Pierce told me that he had just received a letter of appointment as assistant professor of mathematics at Syracuse. He recognized me because we had met when he came looking for a job and he greeted me as a colleague. This really astounded me, because I had been told that the department Executive Committee had firmly rejected the idea of appointing Pierce. At the end of that spring semester the dean appointed Kibbey as the department chairman.[9] By the end of the following year Bers, Milgram, Protter, Rosenbloom and Loewner had left. That year I had several job offers, none of which seemed really attractive. Staying at Syracuse as a member of the defeated opposition to Kibbey's appointment was not particularly attractive either, but both Kibbey and I knew that we worked well together, so that we had only good relations when there was a job that needed to be done.

In order to meet our classes with qualified people, Kibbey hired three people in the next two years: Don Austin, Walter Baum, and Jerome Blackman. Austin was a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1951. He specialized in oddities of real functions. Blackman had a Ph.D. from Cornell with a specialty in Probability and Baum had a Ph.D. under Heintz Hopf in Switzerland. Baum also had a medical degree, but never practiced medicine in the U.S. Because he principally taught during the evening, I did not get to know Pierce very well in his first few years except that we occasionally spoke about music of which Pierce was very fond. When he returned from a leave of absence, he was still working on the very intractable problem of whether or not there were finite projective planes of certain orders. I seem to remember that the question was open for planes of order eleven to thirteen. Pierce produced a couple of papers related to the question but, of course, never settled it. He began to teach his classes during the day, and it was discovered that he was teaching the beginning graduate introduction to analysis course out of his favorite book Birkoff and MacLane's Algebra. I protested to Kibbey that this made the graduate program very difficult to manage, but Kibbey tried to protect Pierce as I complained. Kibbey had a very deep-seated sense of loyalty to people whom he had hired and would not like to hear criticisms of them.

Austin left after a few years and eventually ended up at a large midwestern university. I have forgotten which one it was. Baum remained at Syracuse University until the summer of 1972, at which time he was retired because of his physical disability. He had had Parkinson's disease for many years and had gotten so bad that even a strong public address system installed in his classroom could not help his weakened voice. In his first year at Syracuse he called Kibbey's attention to Albert Edrei who was looking for a job. Edrei and Baum had both attended ETH in Z¨rich and Baum knew Edrei well. In Baum's first several years at Syracuse, he got a couple of our graduate students to finish a PhD. thesis. They were deserving people whose graduation pleased Kibbey very much.[10] I was very pleased to have a fellow topologist as a new colleague with the result that Baum and I started a topology seminar also attended by Exner. There had not previously been any provisions for early retirement for professors with disabilities, but these provisions appeared in a manual of university regulations of which a copy was sent to the department in the fall of 1971. Kibbey and Vice Chancellor Piskor agreed that Baum would be concealed in the Department with a one-course teaching load until such disability arrangements could be made; I raised the question with some colleagues at once about the retirement of Baum, and it was considered wise to retire him.

Blackman eventually became an associate professor and retired at the end of the year 1987-88. He shifted his interest from probability to physics and produced a work of which a visitor from NSF spoke very highly to me. His last paper was not published. In my opinion, a more cleverly written introduction would have ensured publication of a good work. Richard Jarvinen received his Ph.D. in 1971 with a dissertation under Blackman. The dissertation was expository (in the College Teaching program), was published as a book, and got exceptionally fine reviews. Edrei was an excellent colleague who eventually became a Distinguished Professor and was given years to serve beyond the usual retirement age. He wrote a large number of excellent papers, mostly on function theory and had a number of students who got good positions at excellent universities.[11] During the academic year 1952-53 the House Committee on Unamerican affairs interviewed "Ted" Martin who had been department chairman at Syracuse before Cairns. Martin stated that he had been a member of the Communist Party during the beginning of the time he was in Syracuse. In response to questions from the Committee, Martin named several people in the Syracuse area who had also been party members. This list included Abe Gelbart.

For the academic year 1953-54, I was to be on leave in Denmark. Some months before I left Syracuse I happened to have a meeting with Dean Faigle, who, upon finishing our business, told me that the University intended to do what it could to help Gelbart. Furthermore, I was not being asked for an opinion about this. I was being told that Gelbart had always done his job carefully, competently, and with great consideration for his students. His private opinions, if he had any, had not affected his work as a professor and he was not to be persecuted for them. During these times when the Unamerican Committee seemed at the top of its powers, it made the mistake of calling in a Bishop of the Methodist Church to harass him about something or other. He went to Washington and scolded the committee sharply. That was a beginning of the end for the committee. Furthermore, the Bishop was a trusteee of Syracuse University and no doubt his position was passed on to various administrators. The university found Gelbart a lawyer who had been an assistant secretary of state under President Coolidge. What happened when Gelbart came before the committee I do not know, except that Martin eventually said that he could have been mistaken about Gelbart. The experience was a very bad one for Gelbart. He and I never talked about mathematics afterwards. He was not in the mood. Shortly thereafter, he became deeply involved with Yeshiva University from which he got us some very bright graduate students. Eventually he went there as dean of the graduate school of science. Gelbart was lucky to have been at Syracuse. Other institutions behaved very badly in such matters. In Part I of the book A Century of Mathematics in America published by the American Mathematical Society [QA 27 U5 C46 in the Library] is an account by a man called Chandler Davis of his experiences, which were not good.

Statistics, as taught by the Mathematics Department, had a long history. Martin had hired Henry Scheffe to teach that subject, but he had left to go to Berkeley before 1947. When I arrived a young man named Charles Hicks was doing the job, but he left around 1950 to go to Purdue. There were programs in the Engineering School that required statistics courses, all of which were taught by the Mathematics Department. Next Exner was given the job. He learned a great deal about statistics and probability, enough to get a job and do some industrial consulting. However, he took up mathematics education (teacher preparation) and moved to that a few years after Rosskopf left. In the middle 1950's Robert B. Davis was hired to take on part of the heavy load we had then of teacher training. Davis had a Ph.D. from M.I.T. in mathematics, understood a great deal of analysis, had worked as a numerical analyst, was a professional caliber performer on the cello and the harpsichord, and was a very inspiring teacher of teachers. He remained at Syracuse until he left for a much better job at Illinois. While he was here, he got numerous NSF grants for teacher training, he had a big program for math education at Webster College, he taught grade school arithmetic first at the Madison grade school in Syracuse (now closed), and later in a wealthy community in Connecticut. He was sometimes hard to find except at airports. Simultaneous with Exner was a young lady, whom I never met, who also taught undergraduate statistics courses, but she was alone on the job until Kibbey hired Robert Lundegard and Louis Cote to do it. They both lasted several years until Cote moved to Purdue and Lundegard became the man in charge of statistics grants at the National Science Foundation. Eventually, other departments and schools took over the courses once taught by the Mathematics Department and hired their own faculty to teach. In the psychology department there had since the middle 1940's been courses in "psychological statistics," taught principally by the exceedingly competent Eric Gardner.

Computer Science was also at one time under the care of the Mathematics Department. Kibbey hired some excellent people to deal with the big computer and teach those courses, first Bruce Gilchrist and then the pair Werner Rheinboldt and Hans Maehly. Gilchrist was lured away by a very much higher salary, and Rheinboldt was chased away by our colleagues on the Senate Promotions Committee who refused to accept as valid Rheinholdt's appointment letter which specified the number of years he had had in rank before coming to Syracuse. He left to go to the University of Maryland, saying that Syracuse University had behaved dishonestly. After Rheinboldt left, Kibbey persuaded Otway Pardee to do the job of running the Computer Center and teaching about computing machines. The job got to be too big to be done by one person who was also teaching. At this point Bill Jones, one of our masters people with some years of experience at G.E. took over. Eventually, the university got Warren Semon to do the job. There was at first a question as to whether he would be in the Mathematics Department or not, and the Department decided against this. It certainly gave Semon a chance to build what he called an "applied mathematics department" in the name of Computer Science. He hired people in statistics, combinatorics, and mathematical logic whose connection with computer science was at best thin. In particular, Pardee moved to C.I.S. as a professor.

Kibbey was exceptionally good in his dealings with women who were possible members of the Mathematics Department. Lilly Sashu and Mrs. Agogino should be mentioned as people who came as wives of faculty in other departments and were hired by Kibbey. In the case of Mrs. Hu from Engineering, Kibbey helped undo a bad injustice in that school. The story is probably worth telling: Electrical Engineering hired a couple who for obvious reasons were called "He Hu" and "She Hu." The arrangement was that there would be just one position and that in any given semester one or the other could fill it. Never would both of them be on the faculty at any one time. When this became clear outside the school of Engineering, the Mathematics Department offered "She Hu" a job of a more permanent nature. This shamed the engineers into giving a job to both "He Hu" and "She Hu."

From the late 1940's to the fall semester of 1970 there were extension courses in mathematics at various locations during the regular semester and sometimes in the summer at various locations: The Sampson Airbase near Geneva, the Griffiss Airbase in Rome, IBM at Endicott, and IBM at Poughkeepsie. The program at Sampson died early when that base was closed. The one in Rome must have lasted ten years and the one at IBM terminated in 1970. The purpose of the programs was graduate education of engineering and mathematics staff. Salaries varied from one program to another, but all were attractive. The best was IBM Poughkeepsie, which paid for one course during the fall semester of 1970 twenty seven percent of the teacher's annual salary. One flew to Poughkeepsie in a small private plane on Wednesday afternoon, taught for two hours straight at the IBM factory, and then held office hours. One then ate a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant, spent the evening grading papers, taught two more hours next morning and flew back to Syracuse before lunch. It was hard to keep the attention of a class that gave the students little time to think about the material covered one day before plunging ahead the next day. It required, for instance, that one work out in the class numerous examples that might normally have been assigned as exercises. In the late 1950's Kai Lai Chung was hired from Cornell University. He was a well-known probabilist, gave excellent courses in his specialty, and had several Ph.D. theses written under him. It had been hoped that Chung and Blackman could work together, but Blackman was then shifting to an interest in mathematical physics. In the late 1960's Chung had some severe disagreements with George Lorentz who was then on the faculty. Eventually, Chung moved to Stanford and Lorentz moved to Texas.

The usual procession of faculty who came, stayed for one year or two or three, and then went elsewhere, continued for many years. Of those appointed in the early 1950's only George Leger comes to my mind as being memorable. He was an algebraist with whom I worked through a book on homological algebra. I considered him a fine colleague. Kibbey once commented to me that a department chairmanship was like the directorship of a zoo. A zoo contains snakes whose bite is poisonous; lions, tigers, bears and wolves that would enjoy eating you; and various little animals that would prefer to avoid your interfering hand. It would be too much to expect that these creatures would give you peace. The best one can hope for is to keep them somewhat separate and keep them from exercising their native venoms or appetites on you. The job of a good zoo director is precisely to provide welfare and comfort to those dangerous animals. This seems like a suitable note on which to stop.


Footnote 1 is by Erik Hemmingsen; the remaining footnotes are by Phil Church

[1] In part II of the collection A Century of Mathematics in America published by the American Mathematical Society there is a table on page 366 showing the number of Mathematics Ph.D. degrees in the American Universities from 1862 to 1934. The table lists the granting institutions by name. The following is the data for Syracuse University:

Date Span Number of Ph.D's
1880-1889 1
1890-1894 1
1900-1904 1
1910-1914 2
1915-1919 1
1920-1924 3
1925-1934 0
Total 9

The depression years after 1934 and the following World War II years were bad years for the Mathematics Department. Many Journal subscriptions in the library lapsed and no Ph.Ds were granted. The arrival of William (Ted) Martin was the beginning of a rebuilding process.

[2] Stewart S. Cairns was professor and head of the Department of Mathematics at Syracuse from 1946 to 1948, and was professor and head at Illinois-Urbana from 1948 to 1958.

[3] Donald E. Kibbey received his Ph.D. in 1942 from the University of Illinois at Urbana. His advisor was J.L. Doob, who subsequently served as president of the American Mathematical Society in 1963 and 1964. At the International Congress of Mathematicians at Berkeley in August 1986, UC Berkeley published a newspaper containing an interview with David Blackwell, its distinguished probabilist and statistician. Blackwell, who is African-American, told how his friend and fellow Illinois-Urbana graduate student Kibbey had suggested that he talk with Doob about directing his dissertation, since Kibbey knew that Doob thought highly of Blackwell. Blackwell received his Ph.D. under Doob in 1941. After his 1942 Ph.D. Kibbey was briefly an instructor at Michigan State, and then served in the U.S. Army in 1942 to 1946 as an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. At Syracuse he was an assistant professor 1946-48, associate professor 1948-52, and professor 1952-71. He was chair of the Department of Mathematics from 1952-1971, was vice-president for research and dean of the graduate school from 1971 until his retirement in 1977. He died in June 1986. He was a staunch advocate of faculty control, both in the department and in the university at large, and we owe the strong democratic tradition of this department to Don Kibbey. He was good to graduate students during his chairmanship. Just after his retirement there was a conference here at which many of our Ph.Ds of his chairmanship came back to prevent their current research. The funding of the Kibbey prize reflects the affection of former graduate students for him.

[4] George Daniel Mostow was AMS president in 1987 and 1988.

[5] Lipman Bers was AMS president in 1975 and 1976.

[6] Nancy Cole received her Ph.D. in 1934 from Radcliffe College; today it would be a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Her dissertation director was Marston Morse, then a professor at Harvard and subsequently a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton. Morse served as President of the American Mathematical Society in 1941 and 1942. His book The Calculus of Variations in the Large (AMS Colloquium Volume 18, published in 1934) lays the foundation for the subject we today call Morse Theory, and in the foreword Morse wrote: "Dr. Nancy Cole has greatly assisted both in the reading and the preparation of the manuscript." I had lunch with Morse at the Institute cafeteria in the spring of 1976, and he remembered fondly the young Nancy Cole--she had retired several years earlier from Syracuse.

[7] Hemmingsen gives the dates of the Cairns Syracuse chairmanship as 1947 to 1949. In Cairns' listing in American Men and Women of Science 13th edition, it is given as 1946 to 1948. In Martin's listing in the 13th edition, his Syracuse chairmanship is given as 1943-46. Thus it seems likely that Cairns' starting date is 1946 and not 1947. Later in this history Hemmingsen wrote: "At the end of the academic year 1947-48 the department chairman, Cairns, left to become chairman at the University of Illinois." This last sentence is consistent with Cairns' listing in the 13th edition, so the dates of 1946-48 for the Cairns chairmanship are probably correct.

[8] Since Hemmingsen retired, we have been very fortunate to have Mary DeCarlo as our mathematics librarian.

[9] According to Kibbey's entry in American Men and Women of Science, 12th edition, he served as chair 1952-1971. I am grateful to Paul Gilbert for the following information. When Cairns left the Department in 1948, "the department was run by a committee. It made the 'important' decisions, but Don did the nitty-gritty work, really, as an acting chairman under the watchful eye of the committee".

[10] Walter Baum had 6 Ph.D. students at Syracuse University, all between 1954 and 1962.

[11] Albert Edrei had 14 Ph.D. students, 12 of them at Syracuse; and 66 mathematical descendants, 64 through his Syracuse University Ph.D. students. Two of his Syracuse students became full professors at Wisconsin-Madison (Simon Hellerstein and Dan Shea), and one became a full professor at Purdue (Alan Weitsman).