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Obituaries for March 2015

1 March 2015 182 views No Comment

H. Leon Harter

By Harry Khamis, Wright State University Statistical Consulting Center


    I learned just recently, to my sorrow, that H. Leon Harter passed away on March 3, 2010, at Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, Illinois, at age 90.

    The third child—and the only one to survive infancy—of Harman and Josie (Hough) Harter, Leon was born in Keokuk, Iowa, on August 12, 1919. He graduated from Carthage College in 1940 after majoring in mathematics. On September 8, 1940, he was ordained to the ministry of the Christian church.

    Leon earned his master’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1941 with a major in mathematics and minor in physics. On October 23, 1943, he married Alice Madden and, in July of 1944, Leon was inducted into the Navy and sent to Shanghai, China. He was honorably discharged on March 4, 1946. After the war, Leon attended Purdue University, where he earned a PhD in mathematical statistics in 1949.

    After three years as an assistant professor of mathematics at Michigan State University, Leon accepted a position with the U.S. Civil Service as a mathematical statistician at the Aerospace Research Laboratories (ARL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He remained at ARL until December 1978, becoming head of the statistics research unit in 1963. Leon gained international recognition as an expert in order statistics and was honored by his peers by being elected Fellow of both the American Statistical Association and Institute of Mathematical Statistics. He once stated he was proud to have served in the ARL for all but the first four of its 27 years. The ARL statistics group published 250 technical reports, hundreds of journal articles, and dozens of books.

    After retiring from the U.S. Civil Service in 1978, Leon became a research professor at Wright State University (WSU). He retired from WSU in 1984 and moved back to Illinois, where he was self-employed as a consultant and writer (during which time he wrote six more volumes of his eight-volume bibliography of order statistics). Upon leaving WSU, Leon donated the only existing complete collection of ARL statistics technical reports to the statistical consulting center, where they are kept in the conference room library. In 1997, Leon returned to the Christian ministry after a long absence, serving as minister and interim minister at several churches.

    When I arrived at the WSU Department of Mathematics and Statistics in 1980 fresh out of graduate school at Virginia Tech to interview for an assistant professor position, I learned Leon Harter was a research professor there. I remember thinking that if someone with that kind of reputation was in the department, then it must be a good place to work. Indeed, within a year of my employment at WSU, Leon invited me to collaborate with him on a modification of the Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test, thereby helping me initiate my research career.

    Leon’s contributions to our science are many and substantial. In the brief time I shared with Leon as a colleague, I found in him a rare combination of brilliance, humility, professionalism, intellectual generosity, and respect for all. May he rest in peace.

    Lolafaye Coyne

    Lolafaye Coyne, 88, died January 9. Coyne earned her bachelor’s in mathematics from Washburn University, master’s in mathematics from the University of Kansas, and doctorate in mathematical statistics from Kansas State University. She served as the director of the statistical laboratory at the Menninger Foundation for 47 years. Coyne was adjunct professor in the University of Kansas Psychology Department and a reviewer for psychiatric and psychological journals. She was a member of the ASA, Psychometric Society, Society for Psychotherapy Research, and Society for Research in Psychopathology. View her entire obituary.

    P.V. Rao

    Pejaver V. (P.V.) Rao died January 2. Born in India, he came to the United States after receiving a Georgia Rotary Scholarship to complete his graduate work in statistics at the University of Georgia, from which he earned his doctorate in 1963. Rao accepted a faculty appointment in the University of Florida’s newly formed department of statistics in 1964 and was a guiding light for the department for the next 34 years. He was a member of the ASA and Institute of Mathematical Statistics and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. Read more.

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