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Obituaries for August 2015

1 August 2015 No Comment

Ramanathan (Ram) Gnanadesikan

Ram Gnanadesikan, one of the foremost industrial statisticians of the last century, passed away on July 6, 2015, in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where he had a much-beloved summer home.

After completing his PhD in 1957 at The University of North Carolina, Ram spent two years at Procter & Gamble before joining Bell Labs in 1959, where he rose to be the head of the statistics and data analysis research department from 1968 through 1983. At that time, Bell Labs was the research arm of the nationwide Bell System in the USA. After its monumental breakup in 1984, Ram joined Bellcore as division manager of Information Sciences Research. In 1986, he was promoted to assistant vice president of what became known as the Information Sciences and Technologies Research Laboratory. In 1991, he was appointed professor of statistics at Rutgers University, where he remained until his retirement in 1998.

Ram was the consummate applied statistician, with a great flare for research to improve methodologies available to practitioners. He loved to tackle real data problems wherever they arose (e.g., in areas such as air pollution, speaker recognition, aging of semiconductor devices, and risk modeling of companies). Many of these problems needed nonstandard statistical approaches, which stimulated much of his research.

Perhaps the best example of this can be seen in his classic paper with Martin Wilk on probability methods for data analysis in Biometrika, 1968, pp. 1–17. It had a large impact on statistical practice and led to follow-up papers on graphical methods for analysis of variance. His book on the analysis of multivariate observations (1997, Wiley, 2nd ed.) reflects many of his own contributions to that field, again with strong emphasis on graphics and what works in practice. For much more about Ram’s statistical research and his perspectives on the discipline, see the interview with him in Statistical Science, 2001, pp. 295–309.

Ram also contributed widely to our statistics infrastructure. He served as president of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1998–1999) and the International Association for Statistical Computing (1981–1983), which he helped to found. He was a member of the board of directors of the American Statistical Association (1983–1985), chaired its committees on fellows (1989) and publications (1981–1982), and was president of the Cincinnati Chapter (1958–1959). He was elected to the council of the International Statistical Institute for six years (1977–1983) and served as vice president of ISI for two terms (1997–2001). He also headed the ISI Working Group on industrial statistics and led various efforts that eventually resulted in what is now the International Society for Business and Industrial Statistics (ISBIS). For that reason, ISI President Vijay Nair has referred to Ram as the “founding father” of ISBIS, now 10 years old.

Ram’s humanitarian instincts, inspired perhaps by his exposure to Gandhi as a teenager, touched many. In 1989, the senate in his home state of New Jersey honored him for his contributions to greater understanding between the people of India and America.

Ram is survived by his statistician wife, Mrudulla; son, Anand, and his wife, Amalia; son, Mukund, and his wife, Dominik; and two granddaughters, Gita and Mara.

Thomas W. Copenhaver

Thomas W. Copenhaver of New Hope, Pennsylvania, passed away on April 22, 2015, at age 69. Raised in Walthill, Nebraska, Tom earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska in mathematics and physics and later earned his PhD in statistics from Colorado State University. He worked for Wyeth as a biostatistician for 32 years, until his retirement in 2006 as senior director of biometrics research.



Tom served on the PhRMA Biostatistics and Data Management Steering Committee in the late 1990s and the executive committee of the ASA Philadelphia Chapter in the 1980s. However, Tom’s most notable achievement—in his role as a mentor and coach—was his positive influence on the careers of numerous colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry. One former direct report from the early 1980s notes the profound impact Tom had on her career: inspiring her with his love of statistics, encouraging her to pursue a higher degree, resulting in her having had a highly successful career in the pharmaceutical industry lasting more than 30 years. All his colleagues value the role Tom played in their lives.

Tom is survived by his wife of 37 years, Margaret (Marge) DiPonzio. Together, they travelled extensively and were active in their community of New Hope and surrounding Bucks County. Tom was a Nebraska Cornhusker fan and, during the off-season, he loved being outdoors, rafting down the Delaware River or simply enjoying a walk along the towpath with his canines—all shelter rescues. On occasion, Tom could be found sampling a fine local craft beer. His gentle wit and kindness will be sorely missed.

Frederick (Fred) Walter Leysieffer

Frederick (Fred) Walter Leysieffer passed away on April 14, 2015. Born in Milwaukee and raised in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Fred graduated with a PhD from the University of Michigan in 1964 and moved to Tallahassee, Florida, with his new bride, Annelise, to join the faculty of the statistics department at Florida State University (FSU). 

Fred, or “Dr. Leysieffer” to his students, had a long, fulfilling career at FSU. Besides being professor emeritus of statistics and chairing the department from 1981–1987 and 1990–1993, Fred served as faculty senate president from 1992–1994, acting and associate dean of the college of arts and sciences from 1994–1997, and associate vice president for academic affairs and associate provost for six years.

He completed his career with nearly a decade in the office of research, where he greatly enjoyed working on a team responsible for bringing the High-Performance Materials Institute and the Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics, and Energy Building to Innovation Park. Fred respected and loved his university family and the many long friendships built there.

Fred was a lifelong learner and avid traveler with Annelise. Read his complete obituary.

Todd G. Nick

Todd G. Nick, 50, died May 22 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. At the time of this death, he was director of biostatistics in the department of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, with a secondary appointment in the biostatistics program in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS.



Todd made many contributions to the American Statistical Association, serving as program chair (1997), newsletter editor (1998), and chair (2002) of the Section on the Teaching of Statistics in the Health Sciences and program chair (2006) and chair (2010) of the Section on Statistical Consulting. He was a regular contributor at the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), and papers based on his presentations regularly appeared in the JSM Proceedings. In addition to serving as presenter at JSM, Todd also organized and chaired several topic-contributed sessions.

Todd earned his BS in zoology in 1987 from Louisiana State University and completed his PhD in biometry under the direction of Varghese George in the department of biometry and genetics at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans in 1992. He spent the summer of 1989 working as an intern in the section of biostatistics, department of health sciences research, at Mayo Clinic.

After completing his PhD, Todd spent a year as an instructor of biostatistics in the college of pharmacy at Xavier University in New Orleans. In 1993, he accepted a position as assistant professor in the department of health sciences in the school of health related professions (SHRP) at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where he also held a joint appointment in the division of biostatistics in the department of preventive medicine in the school of medicine. He was to remain at SHRP for 12 years, moving steadily up through the ranks to associate (1997–2002) and full professor (2002–2005). In 2005, Todd accepted a position in the department of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, working primarily in the Center for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He also held a joint appointment in the division of human genetics. In 2009, Todd accepted the final appointment of his career, at UAMS.

Todd was an effective collaborator with investigators in many clinical areas, including traumatic injury, traumatic brain injury, emergency medicine, and pediatrics. In addition, throughout his career, he continued to pursue the research trajectory in statistical genetics that began with his dissertation. Todd also made contributions to general statistical methodology, including a paper on regression to the mean in Biometrics, two articles in CHANCE, a chapter in Statistical Case Studies: A Collaboration Between Academe and Industry, and two chapters in Methods in Molecular Biology: Topics in Biostatistics. In 2014, Todd co-authored a textbook with three faculty members in physical medicine and rehabilitation on clinical research methods. Altogether, he had more than 140 publications during his 25-year academic career.

Todd’s positive attitude and persistence in the face of extreme adversity and severe illness will continue to serve as an example for us all. Todd was a friend, colleague, collaborator, teacher, mentor, and leader for many of us in the ASA and statistical community at large, and he will be missed. May he rest in peace.

Todd is survived by his wife of 25 years, Julie, and children, Adam Edward, Laurie Ann, Paul August, and Evelyn Marie, all of Little Rock.

A more complete obituary was published in the Summer 2015 issue of the ASA Section on the Teaching of Statistics in the Health Sciences newsletter. Visit the section website for details.

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