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My Friend Statistics

1 February 2013 768 views No Comment
The ASA will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2014. In preparation, column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and, best yet, how you can get involved in propelling the ASA toward its bicentennial.


Contributing Editor
Bob HoggRobert Hogg has had a long and distinguished career as a statistics professor at the University of Iowa and is recognized worldwide. Elected president of the ASA in 1988, he has been a member for more than 40 years.


When I received a request to write a column about some of my statistical activities to help celebrate the ASA’s 175 years, I reviewed the last 65 years or so. I came to one conclusion: I must thank my friend Statistics. She has opened many doors for me, as she has introduced me to so many outstanding statisticians. It has been amazing!

When I started my graduate work in the late 1940s, I did not realize she was there. But, clearly, she was at my side when I worked on my thesis. While difficult, it was fun for me, and my friend Statistics always tried to keep it that way throughout my professional career.

After I joined the mathematics faculty at Iowa in 1950, Allen Craig and I would frequently take a break in the late afternoon and have a cup of coffee; we always brought Statistics along. As she didn’t drink coffee, she was a cheap date, and the two of us would talk about her, even though she was right there. She didn’t seem to mind. It was the beginning of a love affair.

I realize she was guiding me all the time as I did the following in my career:

  • Taught, researched, and wrote—particularly the textbooks Hogg and Craig, Hogg and Tanis, and Hogg and Ledolter
  • Formed a department of statistics at the University of Iowa in 1965
  • Overcame my initial shyness and participated fully in meetings. It helped that I was program secretary for IMS through much of the 1970s
  • Began working on statistical education by serving on the joint ASA/NCTM committee. I was able to change the section’s name from Training to Statistical Education
  • Found a new research partner, Ron Randles, in the 1970s with whom I worked on distribution-free robust procedures

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, I became a fan and good friend of W. Edwards Deming by my modest efforts in continuous quality improvement. I’ll always remember Ed’s question, “Why are we here?” and his answer, “To have fun.” I practiced that!

Probably serving as president of the ASA in 1988 was by biggest professional honor. I certainly was not a great president, but I probably had more fun than most of them.

After being president, I was program chair of two excellent winter meetings: On Statistical Education in 1992 in Louisville and On Continuous Quality Improvement in 1994 in Atlanta. There were more than 600 statisticians, including 200 students, at each. Oh, in 1992, we started the College Bowl that Bowling Green won, shocking the “big boys.” More people told me one or the other was the best meeting they had ever attended. For IMS and the ASA, I really encouraged people to attend meetings.

My friend Statistics was at my side through all of this. Then, she suggested I stick with revising my texts. The 7th edition of Hogg and Craig, now with the great help of Joe McKean, and the 9th edition of Hogg and Tanis, now with Dale Zimmerman, will appear in 2014.

But Statistics noted I was alone in my personal life as my first wife, Carolyn, died in 1990. Statistics encouraged me to go out some. I met Ann, fell in love, and we married in 1994. (I might say it is tough dating when you are 69 years old. Ann preferred to marry a man in his sixties, rather than one in his “eighth decade,” so we were married just before my 70th birthday.) My three ladies—Statistics, Carolyn, and Ann—have been most important to me. Of course, my four children and eight grandchildren are among the top as well.

As I look back on my professional life, I have my love, Statistics, to thank for all whom I’ve interacted with. These included (and on a first-name basis) C.R. Rao, David Cox, John Tukey, George Box, Stu Hunter, Eric Lehmann, Ingram Olkin, Brad Efron, Frank Graybill, Fred Mosteller, Oscar Kempthorne, Gerry Hahn, Myles Hollander, H. O. Hartley, Manny Parzen, Richard Savage, Jerzy Neyman, P.K. Sen, Xihong Lin, Jack Kiefer, and David Blackwell. I’m sorry if you know me well and I didn’t list you, but you should be pleased you are still alive, as many on this short list are dead.

Back in the 1940s, I never dreamed I would know people like these! I hope all of you love Statistics half as much as I do. With that, I close with one verse of my version of Bob Hope’s song:

    Thanks for the memories,
    Statistics started with a bang,
    While her praises I often sang,
    But now it’s time to part,
    So I thank her with all my heart,
    How lovely she is.
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