Faculty Retirements

05-24-2011

Four faculty members retired during the past year.

Jim Becker received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1964. He held positions at Princeton, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Michigan before coming to Purdue as an associate professor in 1971. Jim's hiring was part of an ongoing effort to establish a strong algebraic topology group in the department. He received tenure in 1973 and was promoted to full professor in 1975. He spent 1975 at Oxford and 1984-85 at the University of Vermont.

Jim was one of the pioneers in the study of equivariant homotopy theory, which combines homotopy theory with group actions. This subject is currently a very active area of algebraic topology and was a key ingredient in the recent solution of the 45-year old Kervaire Invariant problem. An important achievement of Jim's was his solution (with Dan Gottlieb) of the Adams conjecture.

Over the last 40 years, Jim performed enormous service to the department-well over 50 committee years of service on key departmental, College of Science, and University committees. He served as Associate Department Head from 1980-84. On the teaching front, Jim routinely taught a wide range of courses: the large lecture calculus courses, the 260s, upper level courses for majors, advanced service courses, and the graduate sequence in topology. In recent years, he frequently voluntarily taught an overload by not taking the additional teaching credit for large lectures. This sort of collegial effort by Jim and other senior faculty has been key in reducing the teaching load for younger faculty in the department.

Jim's wife Regina plans to retire from her position as Manager of Statistical Consulting in December. We shall miss the presence of both of you, and wish you a long and happy retirement.

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Larry Brown received his B.S. in 1965 and Ph.D. in 1968, both from Harvard University. He was an assistant professor at Stanford from 1968-71 and an assistant professor at SUNY Stony Brook from 1971-74. He came to Purdue as an associate professor in 1974 and was promoted to full professor in 1977. During his 37 years at Purdue, Larry has had sabbatical visits at UC Berkeley, University of Copenhagen in Denmark, the University of New Mexico, and the Mathematical Science Institute in Berkeley. He was the recipient of a Sloan Foundation Fellowship in 1975.

Larry supervised 8 Ph.D. students in his area of research, which spans the fields of operator theory, operator algebras, topological groups, and ergodic theory. Larry has served on virtually all committees in the department and has been the chair of many of them. From 1993-98 he served a 5-year term as associate head, one of the most demanding jobs in the department. Despite these time-consuming duties, Larry continued producing wonderful mathematics. During this time he also supervised one Ph.D. student.

Larry's contribution to teaching mission of the department has also been phenomenal. Over the years his teaching has ranged from elementary calculus courses with enrollments of 400 students (what we call the monster EE 129 calculus) to advanced graduate courses. Few faculty members have this kind of teaching profile.

We appreciate Larry's many years of service to the department. We wish you and your wife Elaine well.

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John Wang came to Purdue in 1968. He received his B.S. from Taiwan National University in 1962 and his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1966. He spent one year at Cornell and one year at the Institute for Advance Study at Princeton before coming to Purdue. He was promoted to associate professor in 1970 and to full professor in 1975. During his time at Purdue, he had year-long sabbaticals at Yale, SUNY Stony Brook, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Mathematical Science Research Institute at Berkeley.

John published extensively in the area of research in Lie groups and algebraic groups. Some of his publications appeared in what are considered to be among the best journals in mathematics, including the Annals of Mathematics, Inventiones, Advances in Mathematics, Duke Mathematical Journal, and American Journal of Mathematics. It is interesting to note that until the start of his very successful collaborations with his late colleague Larry Tong in the early 80s, all of John's papers were single author papers. His collaborations with Larry produced many papers which continue to be influential in the areas of representation theory and differential geometry.

John contributed to the teaching mission of the department by teaching a variety of courses, and we are very grateful for his 43 years of service.

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Clarence Wilkerson came to Purdue as a full professor in 1989. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. from Rice university in 1966 and 1970, respectively. He was assistant professor at the University of Hawaii from 1970-72 and at the University of Pennsylvania 1974-77 and in between (72-74) held postdoctoral positions at Eidg. Tech Hochschules and at Carleton University. From 1977-89 he was a professor at Wayne State University where he also served as department head from 1985-87. During his career, Clarence had sabbatical leaves at IHES in Zurich, University of Chicago, University of California Irvine, Hebrew University in Israel, University of Notre Dame, Cornell University, and University of Rochester. He also had many other short terms visits to many mathematical centers in the U.S. and around the world.

Clarence received several prizes and recognitions for his work including a Sloan Research Foundation Fellowship and the Wayne State Board of Governors Distinguished Faculty Fellowship Award. His research was continuously funded by the NSF since 1975-up to his retirement last summer. Clarence supervised five Ph.D. students and contributed to the running of the department by serving on many committees. His teaching assignments spanned the entire mathematics curriculum, including courses in analysis, geometry, algebra, and partial differential equations. Clarence has given approximately 100 invited addresses and has contributed to the profession by serving as an organizer of several conferences and on the Editorial Board of Mathematical Reviews.

A few years ago, his wife Sharon moved to the College of Nursing at Texas A&M, where she became the Dean of the college last year. After a few years of commuting back and forth, Clarence retired from Purdue at the end of last summer and took a visiting faculty position at A&M. We thank him for his 21 years of service and wish him and his family the very best.