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Obituaries for March 2013

1 March 2013 198 views No Comment

George Casella

Submitted by Ed George and Christian Robert


    George Casella, a leading figure in the field of statistics, passed away on June 17, 2012, after a nine-year battle with multiple myeloma. He was 61.

    George’s influence on research and education in statistics was broad and profound. During his career, he published more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, co-authored nine books, and mentored 48 MS and PhD students. His publications included high-impact contributions to Bayesian analysis, clustering, confidence estimation, empirical Bayes, frequentist decision theory, hypothesis testing, model selection, Monte Carlo methods, and ridge regression. Of his books, Statistical Inference (with Roger Berger) became the introduction of choice to mathematical statistics for vast numbers of graduate students; this is certainly the book that had the most impact on the community at large.

    In 1996, George joined a legendary figure of statistics, Erich Lehmann, then at the University of California at Berkeley, to write a thorough revision of the classic Theory of Point Estimation, which Erich had written by himself in 1983. This collaboration resulted in a more modern, broader, and more profound book that continues to be a key reference for courses in mathematical statistics. (It is notable that the book review section of CHANCE 26(1) was dedicated to five of George’s books.)

    During his distinguished career on the faculties of Rutgers, Cornell, and the University of Florida, George was a key influence in driving research, teaching, and recruitments toward an ever-higher level of academic excellence. For instance, during his 19 years at Cornell—where he began as an assistant professor and finished as the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Biological Statistics—he participated in the creation of the division of statistics and became one of the pillars of the statistics community(ies) on the diverse campus. Located in the historical Ag’ School, George thoroughly enjoyed his many contacts and collaborations in the other schools, from the mathematics department to the veterinary school.

    After joining the University of Florida in Gainesville in 2000, George became a distinguished professor in the departments of statistics of both the College of Agriculture and the College of Liberal Arts and a distinguished member of the Genetics Institute, affecting the life and production of those departments with his endless stamina.

    Wherever he went, George played a key collaborative role in stimulating joint research, brimming with ideas and eager to plunge into new problems. His enthusiasm was contagious, and coupled with his insight, encouragement and generosity, colleagues and students simply blossomed in his company.

    George served as executive editor of Statistical Science, Theory and Methods editor of the Journal of the American Statistical Society, and editor of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B. Having just completed his four-year term with JRSS B when he passed away, George had a clear effect on the requirements of the papers published in the journal. The size of the volumes over his term decreased by almost half, despite an increase in the number of submissions! As an editor, George was known for his impressive efficiency while maintaining the same high standards he had set for himself.

    For his contributions to statistics, George was elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, International Statistics Institute, and American Association for the Advancement for Science. An ISI Highly Cited Researcher, he was elected a foreign member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, selected as a Medallion Lecturer for the IMS, and chosen as a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Purdue University.

    George was born on January 22, 1951, in Bronx, New York, where he attended the Bronx High School of Science. He earned his BA in math from Fordham and his MS and PhD in statistics from Purdue University, under the supervision of Leon Gleser. He spent a sabbatical year in Granada, Spain, in 2002–2003, where he built a strong collaboration with his friend Elias Moreno.

    George enjoyed life to its fullest. In addition to his herculean contributions to the profession, he ran 13 full marathons and served as a volunteer firefighter in the village of Varna during his time at Cornell. While he passionately loved his work, his family always came first. He is survived by his wife, Anne; his children, Ben and Sarah; his brother, Carl; and a legion of friends in the statistics world. Beyond his significant contributions to statistical science, he will be remembered for his charismatic leadership of departments and students, as well as his unique sense of humor and his never-ending optimism. His laughter remains with us forever.

    Contributions can be made in George’s name to a fund at Purdue University by sending a check made out to Purdue Foundation with a memo saying “the George Casella Fund” to Rebecca Doerge, Department of Statistics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907.

    Online donations can also be made.

    Daniel O’Haver Price



    Daniel O’Haver Price was born on a farm in Palatka, Florida, on September 12, 1918, the second son of Charles Henry and Lillian O’Haver Price. He graduated from Putnam High School in 1935 and earned a BS from Florida Southern College in 1939. He taught high-school science in Bartow, Florida, before going to graduate school in 1940. He earned his MA in 1942 and PhD in 1948, both from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    At the end of his active naval duty, Price married Doris Carter on June 23, 1945. He became a full professor in 1951 and continued at Chapel Hill from 1957–1966 as director of the university’s Institute for Research in Social Science. He was a visiting professor at Harvard University (1950) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1957). During 1963–1964, he was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He moved to The University of Texas at Austin in 1966; for four of his 12 years there, he was chair of the sociology department. In 1978, he went to UNC Greensboro, where he was department head for 10 years. He retired in 1988 and moved to Jacksonville, where he married Marion Albinson Conner on June 5, 1988.

    During World War II, Price was an electronics officer in the Navy, attached to PT Boat Squadron 17 in the Pacific, with service in Panama, Hawaii, Marshall Islands, New Guinea, and Mindoro. After the war, as a reservist, he taught courses in missile technology and consulted with the Naval Weapons Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia. He retired as a Captain from the Navy Reserves in 1978.

    As a social statistician and demographer, Price authored or co-authored seven books and more than 50 technical papers in professional journals. These included The 99th Hour, a book that dealt with the now timely issue of limits to population growth; Changing Characteristics of the Negro Population, a description of changes in black population characteristics from 1870–1960; An American Dependency Challenge, the most extensive public welfare study of the 1960s; When a City Closes Its Schools, a survey of the impact of the 1958 closing of Norfolk’s public schools to avoid integration; and Statistics for Sociologists, a standard textbook for several decades.

    Early in his career (1959), Price became a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. His master’s thesis, published in Social Forces, was the first article in the sociology literature using factor analysis. He was also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Sociological Association. He was a consultant to many government agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau, National Institute of Health, Social Security Administration, National Science Foundation, Office of Management and Budget, and Office of Economic Opportunity.

    Price’s second wife, Marion Conner Price (1918–2010), was a leading Jacksonville actress and television pioneer. His first wife, Doris Price (1921–2012), was the mother of his three children: Philip Price (polymer chemist in West Virginia), Karen Price (Boston University linguistics consultant), and Gary Price (Texas State Comptroller’s Office). Grandchildren are Bradford Price of Washington, DC; Megan Price of San Francisco, California; David Price of New York, New York; Aaron Price of San Antonio, Texas; and Indigo Dow of Boston, Massachusetts. He is survived by a brother, Charles David Price of Winter Park.

    Three of his grandchildren have shown mathematical inclination. Megan has a PhD in biostatistics; David was ranked as the top mathematics student in Texas and is now teaching in New York; and Aaron is at Trinity University and doing mathematical geoscience field work in Canada.

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