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J. G. Kalbfleisch 1940-2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jim Kalbfleisch passed away Sunday, April 23, 2017 at his home in Waterloo. Jim served as Chair of the Department of Statistics (now Statistics and Actuarial Science) from 1975-79. He was Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics from 1986 - 1989, leaving that position to serve as Associate Provost, Academic Affairs from 1990-1993 and then Vice-President Academic and Provost from 1993 – 2000.

Jim did undergraduate studies at University of Toronto. He received his Master’s degree in 1964 and PhD in Mathematics in 1966 from the University of Waterloo. His PhD thesis entitled “Chromatic Graphs and Ramsey's Theorem" was supervised by Ralph Stanton. Jim began teaching in the Department of Mathematics in 1964, and when the Faculty of Mathematics was formed in 1967 with Dave Sprott in dual roles as Dean of the Faculty and Chair of the Department of Statistics, Jim was appointed Associate Chair of the Department. He took on many responsibilities in the new Department, and guided it through its early years as new faculty members were hired and courses were mounted. At the end of Dave Sprott’s term in 1975, Jim became Department Chair and served until 1979. During those formative years, the Department developed internationally recognised programs of research and teaching in both statistics and actuarial science. Jim retired in early 2001, having spent 26 of his 34 years as a faculty member in major administrative posts.

Jim was an outstanding teacher, known for his clear exposition. He was the author of the Springer-Verlag books Probability and Statistical Inference: Volume 1: Probability and Volume 2: Statistical Inference, first published in 1979, and republished in 1985. These books developed from course notes for Math 233 (which became Stat 230 and Stat 231 when the course was divided into two terms), and were the required texts for the Department’s introductory courses for many years. In the preface to these books, he points out that “the content of Volume 2 is unusual for an introductory text. The importance of the probability model is emphasized, and general techniques are presented for deriving suitable estimates, intervals, and tests from the likelihood function.” He was an early advocate for using computers in the teaching of Statistics, involving APL in much of his teaching. The basic ideas in Jim’s books and his upper year course notes still provide much of the foundation for undergraduate statistics as taught today at Waterloo.

Jim was elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 1975, and served as President of the Statistical Society of Canada in 1984. On his retirement from Waterloo, he was named Provost Emeritus. He also served as President and Treasurer of the UW Retirees Association. He was an avid bridge player, an active member of the KW Weavers and Spinners Guild, and enjoyed knitting and working in stained glass. There are two scholarships for incoming students that bear his name: the James G. Kalbfleisch National Scholarship in the Faculty of Mathematics, and the James Kalbfleisch Entrance Scholarship at the University level.

By Steve Brown, with Jerry Lawless and Mary Thompson.

A Celebration of Life service for Jim will be held at 2:00 on Sunday, April 30 at the Westmount Memorial Celebration Centre, 1001 Ottawa Street South in Kitchener, with two hours of visitation preceding the service. Family will also receive visitors from 2:00 to 4:30 Saturday, April 29th. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to any charity of choice. Jim's favourite charities included the KW Symphony, the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre, and the Jim Kalbfleisch Award at the University of Waterloo.