Ian B. MacNeill, 1931-2019



It is with deep regret that I must inform the statistical community of Ian MacNeill’s decease. He was surrounded by his family as he peacefully passed away on January 16th at London’s Victoria Hospital. 

Ian was a native of Regina. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from the University of Saskatchewan in 1962. Having decided to pursue an academic career, he went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Queen’s University in 1964 and a doctorate in Statistics from Stanford University in 1969. He subsequently joined the Department of Mathematics at the University of Toronto as Assistant Professor and, in 1971, moved to The University of Western Ontario, where he was appointed Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics.

In 1977, he founded STATLAB, a statistical consulting service laboratory, which he directed until 1992. During that period, STATLAB carried out over 600 consulting projects. As well, he organized the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society Canada that took place in London in 1978. That same year, he was promoted to the rank of Professor. As Director of the Statistics and Actuarial Science unit from 1977 to 1980 he successfully led efforts toward the establishment of the Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences, for which he acted as Chair from 1980 to 1992. Student enrolment in honours programs quintupled during that period. In the mid-eighties, Ian organized a Festschrift in honour of V. M. Joshi and co-edited with Gary Umphrey the resulting six-volume series titled Advances in the Statistical Sciences which was published in 1987 by Reidel of Holland as part of the University of Western Ontario Series in the Philosophy of Science.

Dust jacket of the second of the six volumes comprising the series Advances in the Statistical Sciences



In 1985 he became President of the University’s Faculty Association within which he had previously acted in various capacities. In the course of his chairmanship, Ian secured substantial funding for departmental computing equipment. In 1988 he established the Statistical and Actuarial Microcomputing Laboratory.  In 1995 he was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Medal of the American Statistical Association Section on Statistics and the Environment. This award was presented to him in recognition of "outstanding contributions to the development of methods, issues, concepts and applications of environmental statistics".  He was also cited for his research on monitoring and surveillance methodology, and recognized for his contributions as founding Vice-President of The International Environmetrics Society (TIES) and co-­organizer of the International Conferences on Environmetrics.          Hello                      


I.B. MacNeill, J.S. Hunter and A. El-Shaarawi at the first TIES meeting held in Cairo in 1989


Ian officially retired in 1997 and to highlight this occasion, Volume 10 of Environmetrics was published as a special issue. As Emeritus Professor he maintained his connections to the statistics community by pursuing his own research and providing guidance to former colleagues and students. Of note is the fact that his research program remained NSERC-funded until 2013.

As UWO hosted the 34th Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada and Ian was about to turn 75, it was only fitting that he then be awarded an Honorary Membership in the SSC. The accompanying citation read “To Ian B. MacNeill for fundamental scholarly contributions, ranging from ground-breaking work on the change-point problem and the concept of residual processes for regression models to innovative methodologies for monitoring and forecasting chronic disease incidence, and for fostering the advancement of statistical sciences in his University, in Canada, and in the larger sphere”.

SSC Honorary Membership presented by then President David Binder on May 30th, 2006
Photograph by Peter Macdonald




Ian had previously been awarded fellowships in the American Statistical Association (1985) and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1993). During his prolific career Ian held numerous consultantships and published more than 100 research articles and presented over 150 scholarly addresses at conferences and universities in twenty some countries. As well, he supervised or co-supervised eight PhD. students, one of whom, May Tang, became the co-winner of the Pierre Robillard Award for best PhD thesis defended at a Canadian university in 1990. Throughout the years, Ian has made substantial contributions to numerous areas of theoretical and applied Statistics, including Time Series analysis and forecasting, changepoint and change boundary problems, limit theory for iterated partial sum sequences, modeling and forecasting rates of morbidity and mortality of chronic diseases, and monitoring methods for early detection of outbreaks of infections.

A departmental celebration was organized in 2011 to mark his 80th birthday. An engraved desk clock and a detailed historical account of the first thirty years of the department were presented to him on this well-attended occasion. The last international conference Ian and I both attended was the 2013 Meeting of The International Environmetrics Society that was held in Anchorage. We then reminisced on previous TIES conferences, especially those that took place in Cairo and Tremezzo.



With Ian at the 2013 TIES Meeting, Anchorage, Alaska



On the occasion of his 85th birthday, Ian received a plaque from TIES with the following inscription: “For a Lifetime of Outstanding Contributions to Research, Teaching, Service, and Development of Statistical Theory and its Applications”. As well, a special session was held in his honour at the 44th Annual Meeting of the SSC in St Catharines.


2016 Annual SSC Meeting (left to right):  G. Umphrey, K. Jandhyala, S. Esterby, I. MacNeill, E. Naumova, S. Provost, A. Al




More recently I had the opportunity to partake in a lunch with the two chief mentors of my academic life: Ian B. MacNeill, whose wise counsel and steadfast support have meaningfully contributed to fashioning my early career, and my PhD thesis supervisor, Emeritus Professor A. M. Mathai, whose proficient guidance and valued advice have time and again enhanced my research agenda. May I add that Ian was delighted to see his department thrive as an independent unit within the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Western.


Lunch with Ian and Mathai at Windermere Manor




Many of us who have had the distinct privilege of knowing Ian will remember him as a cordial fellow, a dedicated educator, a distinguished researcher or a superb administrator. Our sincerest sympathies go out to Patricia, his wife of 66 years, as well as his numerous friends and a large circle of relatives comprising three generations of descendants.

Serge B. Provost
Western University



Tuesday, January 29, 2019

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