We remember Professor Emeritus Peter Ponzo

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

We are sad to share the news that Peter Ponzo passed away peacefully on July 5, 2020 after a battle with bone cancer.

Peter Ponzo
Peter became an Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo in 1964. Peter was known for his ability to make calculus so simple and logical. “His lectures were something to behold,” said Ron Dunkley, once Associate Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics. “He was a fabulous teacher with a beautiful way of expressing calculus.”

When Mathematics became a Faculty in 1968, Peter was named chair of the Department of Applied Mathematics. He later became the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics. He retired after 30 years of teaching with the distinction of Professor Emeritus.

“Peter wrote one of the first papers on a mathematical model of tumour growth…before the whole field became fashionable(!),” recalled Siv Sivaloganathan, chair of the department. “He will be greatly missed by those that knew him.”

Peter authored a book to celebrate the first 25 years of computer science at the University of Waterloo. Distinguished Professor Emeritus Don Cowan, the founding chair of the computer science department, now known as the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science and Wes Graham asked Peter to write the book.

“Peter was incredibly talented. He was a writer, artist, gifted educator, researcher and wonderful collaborator,” remembered Cowan. “As an educator, he had the ability to communicate ideas to students at all educational levels. As a collaborator, he always worked for the common good of all involved. Peter had a wonderful sense of humour, which he expressed in both the written word and his cartoons. Peter will be missed very much by all who knew and worked with him.”

Peter also authored a book about the origins of math contests in 1995. Today, the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) runs the contests and holds outreach programs through the year, but back then Peter was heavily involved in running the contests and taught calculus to high school students attending the Summer Seminars at Dunkley’s request. 

Following his retirement, Peter wrote novels, educational pieces about calculus and losing money in the stock market, and a blog, in addition to camping, cruising and spending time with his children and grandchildren. The Globe & Mail published a piece about Peter’s tests of investing formulas and strategies as he managed his own retirement savings. He took his learning and created a large number of tutorials known as gummy-stuff.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to the Peter Ponzo Memorial Fund. You can find more details in his obituary.