John D. Kalbfleisch, Honorary Member 2015

John D. Kalbfleisch
Honorary Member

John D. (Jack) Kalbfleisch, Professor Emeritus of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan, has been named an Honorary Member of the Statistical Society of Canada. This award is intended to honor 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.


Jack was born on July 16, 1943 in Grand Valley, Ontario. His family moved to Orangeville two years later and he grew up there with his older brother, Jim (also a statistician and former President of the SSC), and his younger brother and sister, Peter and Carol. Jack's parents were both teachers; his father, who was a high school math teacher, coached Jim and Jack through their studies and did much to encourage interest and skills in mathematics. There were two moves during Jack's high school years, to Grand Valley after 10th grade and to Goderich after 12th grade. Jack was active in all three schools in student council and drama.
Jack studied mathematics and statistics at the University of Waterloo (BSc 1966, MMath 1967, PhD 1969). After being a Research Associate at University College, London, in 1969-70, he was hired as an Assistant Professor at SUNY Buffalo. He returned to Waterloo as an Associate Professor in 1973 and was promoted to Full Professorship in 1979. He was Chair of his department from 1984 to 1990, and Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics from 1990 to 1998. From 2002 to 2006, he was Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan. He was then Director of the Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center until his retirement in 2012. Jack's sabbatical leaves were spent at the University of California, San Francisco, the University of Washington, the University of Auckland and the National University of Singapore (twice).

In addition to his long-standing record of service as Chair and Dean, Jack has had a very impressive career as a researcher, author, and mentor. His book on The Statistical Analysis of Failure Time Data, written in collaboration with Ross Prentice, is a classic that has gone through two editions. Jack is also the author of nearly 120 research papers, published for the most part in JASA, Biometrika, JRSS B, and other top-tier journals. He has strongly influenced the development of models and methods for analyzing failure time and event history data, with applications to many areas including epidemiology, medicine, demography and engineering. He has been particularly interested in situations where the data are incomplete or subject to sampling bias. He has also studied various aspects of modeling and analyzing mixtures, including work on algorithms for fitting nonparametric mixtures and on methods for testing the order of a finite mixture, a problem arising in various applications in genetics.

In recent years Jack has been working on statistical aspects of problems associated with end-stage renal disease and solid organ transplantation. The Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center has many large-scale projects associated with such issues, including several large contracts funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This is an area where statistical methods play a key role in defining public policy.

Throughout his career Jack supervised more than 20 PhD students. Many of them have gone on to make significant contributions to the field. Jack's record of service to the profession is equally exceptional, not only at Waterloo, but also at NSERC (e.g., as Group Chairman, 1996-98), with the institutes (Fields, PIMS, and more recently CANSSI), and within the SSC (e.g., as President in 1999-2000). In addition, he has served on the Editorial Board of several journals, including The Annals of Statistics, Biometrics, and The Canadian Journal of Statistics.
Jack's outstanding contributions to the development of statistics earned him numerous honors and awards over the years. In particular, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1994 and was awarded the SSC Gold Medal the same year. On the international scene, he received the Fisher Lecture Award in 1999 and the Snedecor Award for Biostatistical Research in 2013. Needless to say, he is also a long-standing Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute (1981), a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (1987), and a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1988).

Jack married Sharon Allen in Hamilton, Ontario in 1966. Sharon taught at Conestoga College in Kitchener and was Dean there for a number of years. Jack and Sharon's three children grew up in Waterloo: Michael graduated from the University of Western Ontario in dentistry and practises in Waterloo; Heidi has a Masters degree in Statistics from Simon Fraser University and works in the health care industry in Richmond, Virginia; her twin sister, Kirby, got her MBA from the University of Calgary and is a market research consultant, also home-based in Richmond. Jack and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and recently moved to a smaller house out of town. Jack continues to contribute to a number of research projects, is an avid gardener, enjoys the many musical events in Ann Arbor and plans to get back to his earlier work on stained glass. He and Sharon also enjoy summer adventures with their five grandchildren.

The citation for the award reads: 


"To John D. Kalbfleisch, for his exceptional contributions to statistics, notably in survival and event analysis; for his important and influential work in health research; for his excellence in training and mentoring; for his remarkable and sustained academic leadership; and for his dedication to the profession in Canada and abroad."