Jim Kalbfleisch 1940-2017

Jim Kalbfleisch, who served the Statistical Society of Canada as President-Elect (1983), President (1984) and Past President (1985), died Sunday, April 23, 2017 at his home in Waterloo. During his distinguished career at the University of Waterloo, Jim served as Vice-President Academic and Provost from 1993-2000, Associate Provost, Academic Affairs from 1990-1993, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics from 1986 - 1989 and Chair of the Department of Statistics (now Statistics and Actuarial Science) from 1975-79.

Jim Kalbfleisch at the SSCJim was born in Galt, Ontario and grew up in Orangeville, Ontario. He was the oldest of four children; his brother Jack (SSC Gold Medalist, 1994) also served as President of the SSC (1999-2000). Jim did undergraduate studies at University of Toronto, graduating with a BSc in 1963. 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 Waterloo’s Department of Mathematics in 1964. When the Faculty of Mathematics was formed in 1967 with Dave Sprott (SSC Gold Medallist, 1988) in dual roles as Dean of the Faculty and Chair of the Department of Statistics, Jim, at age 26, was appointed Associate Chair of the Department of Statistics. 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 grew considerably and developed internationally-recognised programs of research and teaching in both statistics and actuarial science. Jim retired in early 2001, having spent 26 of his 37 years as a faculty member at Waterloo in administrative posts.

Jim was President of the SSC back in the days when the Society was still young, but ready to grow into what it is today. In 1984 when Jim was President, the transition to the Society’s holding its own annual meetings occurred when the SSC held its annual conference at the University of Guelph independently of the Learned Societies. The idea of an SSC Gold Medal competition had developed when Michael Stephens was President in 1983; the implementation of the first Gold Medal competition occurred while Jim was President and led to the awarding of the first SSC Gold Medal to Don Fraser in 1985. As President, Jim worked diligently to lead the SSC smoothly, professionally and with warm collegiality. He handled Board and Executive Committee meetings with the grace and good humour that characterized the many administrative positions he held over his career.

In addition to his skills as an administrator, 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. In recognition of his contributions to the university, he was installed as Waterloo's first Provost Emeritus at Convocation in June 2001. He was an avid bridge player. Never one to be idle, in retirement he took up knitting and working in stained glass and became an active member of the KW Weavers and Spinners Guild. He also enjoyed the theatre, music and time with family and friends at their cottage on Lake Huron.

Jim leaves his wife Rebecca, their daughter Jane, and sons David (Danielle Droitsch and granddaughter Eleanor) and Brian.


Written by Steve Brown, with help from Mary Thompson, Jerry Lawless, Nancy Reid, and Brian Allen.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

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