Jerry Lawless, Honorary Member 2014

Jerry Lawless
Honorary Member

The 2014 recipient of the Honorary Membership of the Statistical Society of Canada is Professor Jerald F. Lawless. This award is intended to honour an individual who has made exceptional contributions to the development of the statistical sciences in Canada and whose work has had a major impact in this country.

Jerry Lawless is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Waterloo. He was born on August 5, 1944, in Pembroke, Ontario. His parents grew up on farms in southern Ontario and both became teachers. His elementary and high school education was in Kirkland Lake, where he and his brother Andy spent their spare time playing sports. Jerry even considered a career in professional hockey. He played major junior hockey for the Peterborough Petes at the end of his first year of studies at the University of Waterloo and later served as captain of the Waterloo Warriors from 1964 to 1966. Luckily for us, however, he chose to focus on statistics after completing his Bachelor of Science degree in 1966. He stayed at Waterloo for his MSc and PhD degrees, which he earned in 1967 and 1969, respectively. His thesis on combinatorial design was written under the supervision of Ronald Mullin.
After spending one year in Edinburgh, thanks to a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Research Council, Jerry joined the Department of Statistics at the University of Manitoba in 1970. Two years later, he returned to Waterloo, where he was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 1973 and to Full Professor in 1980. He remained in Waterloo until his retirement, except for sabbatical leaves at the University of Reading, University College and Imperial College, London, and the University of Auckland. In his department, he served as Graduate Officer from 1973 to 1977 and Chair from 1979 to 1984. He was also Acting Chair for one year on two occasions. From 1994 to 2004 he held an Industrial Research Chair in Quality and Productivity sponsored by General Motors Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
Jerry’s interests cut across several areas, including reliability theory, survival and event history analysis, epidemiology, biostatistics, the analysis of incomplete data, as well as methods for systems and processes. To this point he has written nearly 130 research papers, a dozen book chapters and similar numbers of articles in conference proceedings and invited discussions. He has published in prestigious journals, and his work has been very influential and widely cited.
Jerry is perhaps best known to the public for his book Statistical Models and Methods for Lifetime Data, published in 1982 and followed by a second edition in 2003. In 2007 he coauthored another book with Richard Cook on The Statistical Analysis of Recurrent Events. This past year Jerry also demonstrated strong leadership and vision in editing Statistics in Action: A Canadian Outlook, a book commissioned by the SSC to celebrate the International Year of Statistics. He used this opportunity to promote statistics to a general readership while highlighting important Canadian contributions to the field.
The influence of Jerry as a mentor is also widely recognized. He supervised three Master’s students, 25 PhD students and many postdoctoral fellows. They all have successful careers in government, industry and academia in Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Three of his PhD students have won the Pierre Robillard Award (Joan Hu, Jing Qin, Richard Shillington). Jerry is currently supervising two PhD students at Waterloo and one at the University of Toronto, where he is an Adjunct Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Over the years Jerry also contributed extensively to the welfare of the Canadian and international statistical communities through service. Among others, he was President of the SSC (1993–94), Editor of Technometrics (1984–86), co-Editor of Lifetime Data Analysis (1999–2002), member of Statistics Canada’s Advisory Committee on Statistical Methods (1997–2006), as well as Group Chair and member of NSERC’s Committee on Research Grants (1998–99).
Jerry’s professional accomplishments earned him the SSC Gold Medal for Research in 1999. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2000 and has been a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics since 1983 and 1990, respectively. He received awards for three of his papers: the Youden Award in 1979, and both the Wilcoxon Award and The Canadian Journal of Statistics Best Paper Award in 1999. He was also the 2012 recipient of the Shewhart Medal from the American Society for Quality.
Today Jerry lives in Toronto with his wife Liz. They have three daughters, Jill, Kim, and Sarah, as well as four grandchildren. In his life away from statistics and science, his interests include sports, movies, music, reading and the arts in general. Playing with his grandchildren is a favorite activity, and he is keenly interested in his daughters’ careers in journalism, television and web design.

The citation for the award reads: 

“To Jerald F. Lawless, for his outstanding contributions to the development of statistical methods for research in science, industry, and public health, particularly in the analysis of survival and event history data; for his exceptional commitment in training and mentoring; and for his great dedication to the Canadian statistical community and the profession.”