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Professor Gerald Berman

Gerald BermanGerald Berman


Gerry Berman, Professor of Mathematics and founding Chair of the C&O department, died Sunday, September 16, 2012.

Born November 12, 1924 in Semens, Saskatchewan, his family moved to Toronto. After attending Harbord Collegiate Institute he studied at the University of Toronto, obtaining a PhD degree in 1950. His thesis topic was "Finite Projective Geometries," written under the supervision of H.S.M. Coxeter. While writing his thesis, he for a time shared an office with Tutte.

For the next nine years he taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Berman joined the faculty of the new University of Waterloo as Professor in 1959. He was, until Tutte came in 1962, the academic advisor for Ron Mullin's graduate studies. He and Ron each played a significant role in bringing Tutte to Waterloo.

In the initial planning for the Faculty of Mathematics in 1966, there were four projected departments. Berman went to Tutte, asking if he would be willing to form the nucleus of a fifth department: Tutte readily agreed. The first name chosen was the Department of Mathematical Science. Then Berman asked Tutte for a single term for graph theory, enumeration and design theory. Tutte replied: "The word is 'combinatorics'". Gerry added "and optimization," and thus it has been. He made C&O a comfortable home for Tutte, becoming a ready agent for Tutte's suggestions.

In its first year, 1967, the department's professors were Berman, Tutte, Nash-Williams, Mullin, Honsberger and Murty; Younger was a visiting professor, who stayed on. The Lecturers that year were Burns, Dodd, Dunkley, Faulkner, Haff, Miller, Morofke and Robertson.

Berman first got to know Charles Haff in 1960, when he was consulting for the Mathematics Department at Martin Marietta in Denver. In 1966, when Chuck asked Gerry for a letter of recommendation for graduate studies, Gerry turned it around, inviting Chuck to get his doctorate at Waterloo, with a lectureship. This was the beginning of a successful career for Professor Haff. It is only one of many examples in which Berman provided a home in C&O for different types of persons who went on to make significant contributions. I have in mind Davis, Fryer, Dunkley, Shank, Bondy, Edmonds, Jackson, Hammer, Read, Schellenberg, Best. He also made C&O a mecca for visitors.

Berman continued as chair until 1974; he retired as professor in 1989.

Gerry and his wife Molly were married for 66 years. They had four children: Ken, Ron, Sharon and David. Ken Berman was a student of C&O, and obtained a PhD under the supervision of Tutte; he is now a professor of Computer Science at the University of Cincinnati. Berman's sister Lorna lives in Waterloo; she taught French at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, its name, its history, its initial character, are the legacy of Gerald Berman.

- Dan Younger, Department of C&O