Memorial Resolution James Carlyle Lillo


James Carlyle Lillo died at his home in West Lafayette on August 18, 2021.


Jim was born on March 14, 1930, in Larimore, ND. His childhood was spent in Jamestown, ND, and later in Moorhead, MN, where his father was on the faculty at Jamestown College and Concordia College. During his school years, Jim was active in sports, debate, yearbook, theatre and student council. He played football and basketball, and excelled at tennis – advancing to semi-state in singles and placing second in doubles at the state tournament.

As a college student during the Korean War, Jim joined the National Guard and was called up for service early in his junior year. He started in the artillery and was later transferred to serve as a cook. During that time, he maintained his focus on his studies, taking correspondence courses in mathematics from the University of Chicago. Upon completion of his active service, Jim maintained a demanding schedule, working 30-40 hours/week and carrying up to 21 credit hours a semester. He graduated from Concordia College with a double major in physics and mathematics in 1953.

Jim went on to earn his Master's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1955, then his PhD in mathematics from Princeton in 1957. His major professor was Solomon Lefschetz. He accepted a position of Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas in the fall of 1957. There, he met Frances Wolfe, an instructor in the mathematics department and assistant to the chairman. Jim and Fran married in August of 1958.

Starting in 1959, on leave from the University of Kansas, Jim spent a year at the Research Institute for Advanced Study (RIAS) in Baltimore, MD at Lefschetz’s invitation. RIAS was an industry sponsored research institute, founded as part of the US response to the launch of sputnik, in which Lefschetz established a large group of mathematicians working on nonlinear differential equations. At the end of that year, Jim accepted a position at Purdue.

He spent a sabbatical at Brown University during 1966-67. He was promoted to full professor in 1967. Jim served for seven years as Chairman of the Graduate Committee overseeing the department’s graduate program, and for six years as Chair of the Advanced Services Committee. Jim was a successful teacher at all levels ranging from large lectures of first year calculus to specialized graduate courses. His colleagues valued his quiet competence. He retired from Purdue in 1995.

Jim’s research was primarily on systems of ordinary differential equations and systems of differential-difference equations, usually motivated by physical systems. He published in top journals (PNAS, Annals of. Mathematics., American Journal, Acta). He supervised three PhD students, Russell Bilyeu, John Buchanan, and Rudy Svoboda.

Fran and Jim have five children, Bets (Ray), Bob (Sarah), Walter, Nancy and Sarah (Bryan), and seven grandchildren, Michael, Anita, Susan, Abby, Rachel, Cal and Thomas.

Jim was also an avid do-it-yourselfer – he renovated and doubled the size of the family home – doing all the work himself. He developed a passion for woodworking and became a master furniture maker, filling his home and the homes of family members with beautiful furniture.

Colleagues sought his advice on their own DIY projects.

David Drasin

Leonard Lipshitz

Allen Weitsman

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