Obituaries for October 2009
Mir Maswood Ali
Mir Masoom Ali, George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Statistics Emeritus, Ball State University
Mir Maswood Ali, 80, professor of statistics emeritus, University of Western Ontario, died August 18, 2009, in London, Ontario, Canada, due to pulmonary complications.
Ali, who was of Bangladeshi origin, earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1948 and his master’s degree in statistics in 1950, both from the University of Dhaka. From 1950 to 1952, he served as lecturer in the department of statistics at Dhaka University and worked as an actuarial assistant at Norwich Union Life and Canada Life. In 1958, he earned his second master’s degree in actuarial science at the University of Michigan, where he worked as a teaching fellow until 1959. He earned his PhD in statistics at the University of Toronto.
In 1961, he joined the mathematics department at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) as assistant professor. He was the first statistics faculty member and quickly promoted to associate professor in 1963 and full professor in 1966. He remained there until his retirement in 1994.
During his time at UWO, Ali developed the graduate and undergraduate programs in statistics and was instrumental in creating a separate department of statistics and actuarial sciences. He published in leading statistical journals, including the Annals of Mathematical Statistics, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Journal of Multivariate Analysis, Pacific Journal of Mathematics, and Biometrika. His research interests encompassed many areas of statistics and mathematics, including order statistics, distribution theory, characterizations, spherically symmetric and elliptically contoured distributions, multivariate statistics, and n-dimensional geometry. His two highly rated papers are in geometry and appeared in the Pacific Journal of Mathematics.
Ali was a man of principle. He was also a decent and humble man who never sought recognition for anything he did or achieved. He was a dedicated family man and devoted much of his time to his family. He was married to his wife, Surayia, for 47 years. He left behind eight grown children—Rayhan, Yasmin, Selina, Sharmeene, Sadek, Nasreen, Ayesha, and Adnan—and seven grandchildren. His youngest daughter, Ayesha, followed in his footsteps and now teaches statistics at the University of Guelph in Canada.
Ali was a great mentor, teacher, and friend. We will miss him dearly.
Roberta (Robie) Lynn Sangster, 55, passed away August 27, 2009, due to complications from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was born in Anatone, Washington, and graduated from Asotin-Anatone High School. In 1988, she earned her bachelor’s in social science from Lewis-Clark State College at Lewiston and graduated summa cum laude. She went on to earn her master’s in 1990 and a doctorate in 1993 in sociology from Washington State University at Pullman.
Sangster worked as a survey methodologist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in Washington, DC, from 1993 until 2008, during which time she received the BLS Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to improving BLS’ survey design. She also taught in the survey design and data analysis graduate program for The George Washington University.
She was a member of the Washington Statistical Society and active in the ASA, serving as chair of the Membership Surveys Committee, chair of the Survey Review Committee, and secretary/treasurer and program chair of the Government Statistics Section. She also served as leader of the ASA self-awareness task force, charged with measuring the role of the ASA in the life of average statisticians, and she worked with the ASA Committee on Committees to enable the task force to become the ASA Committee on Membership and Retention in 2006. Sangster was a member of the Statistical Consulting Section, Statistical Computing Section, Government Statistics Section, and Social Statistics Section. Moreover, she was a member of the Washington, DC, chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and received their Outstanding Achievement Award in 2008 for her contribution to the field of survey research.
All who knew Sangster will sorely miss her. In the words of former ASA President Fritz Scheuren, “… [S]he was a scholar, a doer, and, most of all, a giver. …” True to her nature, she donated her body to science for research. Memorial donations can be sent to the ASA, 732 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314–1943 for the Gertrude Cox Scholarship Fund for women.