Obituary – Emeritus Professor, Dean, and Provost Felix Haas

07-17-2013

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Felix Haas, Arthur G. Hansen Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, passed away July 16, 2013 in New York at the home of his daughter. He was 92.

Born in Austria in 1921, Haas left his homeland for the U.S. in 1939, without graduating from high school. He found work in a garment factory and a smelting factory. In 1943, he entered the U.S. Army and served in field artillery in Europe, saw combat, and attained the rank of staff sergeant. Upon his discharge in 1946, he entered MIT on the GI Bill and earned a B.S. in physics, an M.S. in mathematics, and Ph.D. in mathematics. On completing his Ph.D. in 1952, Haas began a series of academic appointments—Instructor at Lehigh University 1952-53, Fine Instructor at Princeton University 1953-55, and Assistant Professor at University of Connecticut 1955-56. He moved to Wayne State in 1956, where he became Head of the Mathematics Department in 1960.

In spring 1961, Haas was hired by Purdue to head the Division of Mathematical Sciences, at that time consisting of the Mathematics Department and the Statistical Laboratory, which was in charge of the university's data processing operation. Haas assumed the Purdue headship full-time in January 1962 and soon recommended that the division be restructured to three academic departments—Computer Science, Mathematics, and Statistics—as well as two service units, the Statistical Laboratory and the newly created Purdue Computing Center.

In December 1962, Haas was asked to lead the newly created School of Science (Science having separated from the School of Humanities, Social Science and Education). He served as Dean of Science until 1974 and became Purdue's Executive Vice President and Provost in 1975, a position he held until 1986.

Haas left the Provost's Office upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 for senior administers and returned to full-time teaching in the Mathematics Department. He was a superior teacher and was selected by students as one of the top ten teachers in Science in 1989 and 1991. He helped develop courses in the honors program and also taught service courses. Although he formally retired from the university in 1991, he continued to maintain an office and regularly taught an undergraduate course until 2005.

In 2006, the Purdue Board of Trustees voted to rename the former Computer Science Building "Felix Haas Hall," in recognition of his vision and leadership in creating the first Computer Science Department in the U.S.

"The fact that Purdue wanted to name a building after me came as quite a surprise, but I am very much honored by this decision," Haas said.

Felix Haas is survived by his wife Margaret; his three children Richard, Elizabeth, and David from his marriage to Violet Bushwick Haas; and seven grandchildren.