Constance van Eeden, Honorary Member 2011
Constance van Eeden, Emeritus Professor at Université de Montréal, Professeure associée at Université du Québec à Montréal and Honorary Professor at University of British Columbia, has been awarded Honorary Membership in the Statistical Society of Canada. The distinction, which was announced at the June 2011 Annual Meeting of the Society held in Wolfville, NS, recognizes Professor van Eeden’s exceptional contributions to the development of statistical sciences in Canada.
Constance van Eeden was born on April 6, 1927 in Delft, The Netherlands. Her father was a high school teacher. In 1934 her family moved to Bergen-op-Zoom where Constance did grades 2 through 6, and then high school, finishing in 1944. Afterwards she moved to Amsterdam, the capital city, where she started her university studies, obtaining a B.Sc. (1949), an M.Sc. (1954) and a Ph.D. (1958, cum laude) degrees from the University of Amsterdam. Her Ph.D. thesis was written under the supervision of the legendary David van Dantzig.
Her academic career spans over 50 years. It began in The Netherlands, continued on in the United States and then in Canada where she has done most of her work. She started off as a Research Associate at the Mathematical Centre (1954-60) in Amsterdam. At the invitation of Herman Rubin, she joined Michigan State University as a Visiting Associate Professor (1960-61). She then moved to University of Minnesota where she was Research Associate (1961-64) and Associate Professor (1964-65).
In 1965, van Eeden and her late husband, Charles H. Kraft, with whom she shared a passion for mathematics and statistics that led to numerous fruitful collaborations, decided to move to Canada, settling in Montréal. The move was, in no small measure, in response to warm invitations from Jacques Saint-Pierre, Maurice L’Abbé and Anatole Joffe. Her long association with Université de Montréal began in 1965, holding the positions of Professeure agrégée (1965-68), Professeure titulaire (1968-88) and Professeure émérite (1988-present). After Kraft and van Eeden’s arrival, the city started to be visited by world famous statisticians, including Jerzy Neyman, Lucien Le Cam, Jaroslav Hájek, Herbert Robbins and Hermann Chernoff, and bustled with scientific statistical events. After her retirement from the Université de Montréal, she has kept an active academic career, holding the positions of Chercheure associée (1989-91) and Professeure associée (1991-present) at the Université du Québec à Montréal, and Adjunct Professor (1989-95) and Honorary Professor (1995-present) at the University of British Columbia.
Professor van Eeden is a world-renowned researcher, recognized for her influential contributions in the areas of estimation in restricted parameter spaces, decision theory, nonparametrics and selection procedures. Her work reveals great intellectual courage, mathematical skill and originality. She is often credited with establishing the foundations for the area of inference for restricted parameter spaces ahead of its time, before the area gained attention as an important area of research. Its main impact stems from the fact that statistical procedures that exploit parameter restrictions can achieve important improvements in performance, for example significant reductions in the mean square error of estimators, when compared with unrestricted estimation.
In collaboration with her late husband, Charles H. Kraft, Constance made another great contribution through their pioneering work on nonparametric statistical inference. For many years “Kraft and van Eeden” were household names in that discipline. Their visibility was enhanced by their publication of a highly innovative book on the subject: A Nonparametric Introduction to Statistics by C.H. Kraft and C. van Eeden, Macmillan Co., 1968.
Teaching and supervision of graduate students figured very high in her list of academic duties. To date, van Eeden has supervised 14 Ph.D. and 19 Masters students. Many have become seasoned researchers, scattered around the country from St. John’s, NL to Vancouver, BC. She would spare no time in generously advising younger researchers on whatever concerns they had, from specific research questions to planning their careers.
With a keen eye for detail, van Eeden’s editorial contributions are well-known. For Statistical Theory and Methods Abstracts, she served as Editor in Chief (1990- 2004) and Regional Editor for Canada and US (1994-2004). She was an Associate Editor for the Annals of Statistics (1974-77), The Canadian Journal of Statistics (1980-94) and the Annales des Sciences Mathématiques du Québec (1986-98). Since 2006, Constance has been a Reviewer for Mathematical Reviews. Throughout the years, van Eeden has served on numerous scientific and professional committees, including NSERC’s Statistical Sciences Grant Selection Committee (1978-81) and International Fellowships Selection Committee (1990), IMS’s Committee on Fellows (1973-76) and Council (1977-80), Board of Directors of the Canadian Mathematical Society (1981-83), Noether Award Committee (2001-03, 2004-06), and the SSC’s Special Awards Committee (1990-91) and the Scientific Committee for the Society’s annual meeting held at Université Laval in 1987.
In recognition of her outstanding contributions, Constance has received numerous awards. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1972), Fellow of the American Statistical Association (1972) and an Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute (1978). In 1990 van Eeden received the Gold Medal from the Statistical Society of Canada, the highest distinction bestowed by the Society. In 1999, the International Statistical Institute awarded van Eeden the Henri Willem Methorst Medal in recognition of outstanding and significant services rendered. The ISI also recognized van Eeden with the ISI Service Certificate in 2003. The Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the Université de Montréal created, in 1998, the Prix Constance van Eeden in recognition of her contributions to the development of statistics at the Université de Montréal.
In an interview for Liaison in 2003, van Eeden shared some of her experience with World War II while living in Bergen-op-Zoom, The Netherlands, when she was in her teen years. When liberation day (October 27, 1944) for Bergen-op-Zoom came, Constance was writing her final high school exams. Bertrand Clarke, the interviewer, asked her what that day was like for her. She replied, “The day that the Canadians pulled in, I will never forget that. Two o’clock in the morning. All this noise in the street and there they were. But we knew already that the Allies were on their way. We followed them, by illegally listening to the BBC broadcasting from England. The recovery from the war was slower than people think. The retreating Germans destroyed things that could have been used against them. Rationing and currency restrictions went on well into the 50’s.”
Every year, Constance typically spends the Fall at UBC. The rest of the year she is in The Netherlands, in her house in the picturesque Broek in Waterland, a five-hundred year old village of about 2500 people, close to Amsterdam. There, Constance is close to her daughter Kari, her brothers and many nephews and nieces.
The citation for the award reads:
“To Constance van Eeden, for fundamental and pioneering work in nonparametric statistics and estimation in restricted parameter spaces; for her high standards in research, in particular numerous editorial contributions in Canada and elsewhere; for generously mentoring and inspiring many generations of statisticians.”