K. Laurence Weldon, Distinguished Service Award 2017

SSC 2017 Distinguished Service Award
Distinguished Service Award

Professor K. Laurence (Larry) Weldon is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Service Award from the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC). This award honours an individual who has played an important and substantial role in fostering the growth and success of the Canadian statistical sciences community through leadership in the SSC.

Larry studied Mathematics and Physics at the University of Toronto, discovering and specializing in Statistics in his upper division courses; he graduated with both his BSc (1965) and his Masters degree (1966) from the University of Toronto. After a summer’s work at Dupont Research Center in Kingston he headed to Stanford University to study applied probability models under Rupert Miller, graduating with a PhD in Statistics in 1969.

Larry’s first academic job on his return to Canada was a joint appointment between York University (Administrative Studies) and the Committee of Presidents of Universities of Ontario. His desire to be involved in medical statistics prompted a move to the School of Hygiene at University of Toronto and then to Dalhousie University, where he was jointly appointed to the Preventive Medicine and the Mathematics departments. At both Toronto and Dalhousie Larry was very involved in statistical consulting services within the university. In 1978 Larry headed west again, accepting a position as Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University, where he taught until his retirement in 2007. While there, he developed the SFU consulting service, which he coordinated for 15 years. Just as he was retiring from SFU, Charmaine Dean convinced him to take over editorship of Liaison. That editorship has lasted ten years. 

The first decades of Larry’s career were concentrated on explaining statistical techniques to non-statisticians through teaching and consulting. His experiences with statistical consulting stimulated an interest in the reform of statistical education, and from 1986 onwards, spurred on by his attendance at 2nd International Conference for Teaching Statistics (ICOTS) in Victoria, BC, his career focused on this reform. He was one of the first to offer a statistics course online, involving the peer-support model in statistics education. Larry has been an indefatigable proponent of the idea that teachers of statistics need a hands-on knowledge of applied statistics in order to teach it properly. In recent years Larry has encouraged experiential learning as a more authentic approach to statistics training. The CIDA-SFU Eastern Indonesia University Development Project allowed him to share this teaching approach with Indonesian statistical faculty through short courses and mentoring of teachers of statistics (1988-1998). He took every opportunity to contribute talks to the conferences of the ASA, SSC, OZCOTS, ICOTS and IASE (International Association for Statistics Education) suggesting changes to undergraduate teaching. Some of these suggestions have also appeared as articles in Liaison as well as in the Editor’s messages. 

Larry has continued to promote educational reform of the discipline after his retirement. He has given talks at conferences and seminars with varying aspects of his work in simulation and graphics, and the use of these techniques in statistics education. The details of these contributions are recorded at www.stat.sfu.ca/~weldon.

Larry’s involvement with the SSC began with his election to the Board of Directors as an Atlantic Region representative of the Canadian Statistical Society (CSS) in 1975-76. The CSS became the Statistical Sociey of Canda (SSC) in the following year. He participated in SSC meetings across the country in subsequent years. Larry was Program Chair for the SSC meeting in Winnipeg in 1985. Although he retired from SFU in 2007, the ten years as Editor of Liaison have given him an opportunity to remain in the consciousness of Canadian statisticians. As an invited participant to SSC Board meetings, he has been involved in the strategic planning of the SSC.

There have been significant changes made to Liaison in both layout and content since 2008, making the newsletter one of the best in the international statistical community. Larry credits his wife Jill for excellent support in this, as Jill has done the layout for most of Larry’s tenure as Editor. Larry is now involved in the reincarnation of Liaison to a web-based version. Under his leadership, Liaison has become a world class newsletter.

The citation for the award reads: 

“To K. Laurence Weldon, for exemplary service as Editor of the SSC newsletter Liaison; for his leadership over a decade in enhancing Liaison to a world class standard; for his endless attention to all aspects of publishing the newsletter; for his early and ongoing efforts to promote reform in statistical education; and for his effective service as a Canadian representative to the international statistical education community.”


Thanks to Edward Chen, who was primarily responsible for producing this material.