95th Birthday 2001

News from the Ross Ninety-Fifth Birthday Reunion/Conference, July 2001

Myron Allen
I participated in what was then the Summer Science Training Program (SSTP) at Ohio State in 1971. That eight-week program was my first contact with real mathematical ideas, as distinct from the computational skills that I was learning in my high-school classes. The shock had a salubrious effect: I made mathematics my profession. I owe that choice to many teachers, but Dr. Ross and my counselor, Steve Rosenberg, were the first to open the door.
I did my undergraduate work in mathematics and physics at Dartmouth and finished the PhD in applied mathematics at Princeton, in 1983. Since then I’ve been a faculty member in mathematics at the University of Wyoming. In 1999, in what some days seems like a lapse in judgment, I took a position as associate vice president for academic affairs. In my current job I manage the university’s academic budget, tenure and promotion decisions, and academic planning. To preserve sanity, I still teach a couple of graduate courses in mathematics each year. When my fellow mathematicians allow it, I teach outside of my expertise (numerical analysis), as a kind of surrogate for the sense of discovery that I enjoyed so much when I had time for real research. My students, being extremely polite, say they like the results.In my “spare” time I work with the local ski patrol, and my wife, Adele Aldrich, and I spend as much time as we can in the Rocky Mountain backcountry, especially Wyoming’s Wind River range.Some day I’ll come to my senses and return full-time to the discipline that I learned to love one summer, many years ago, on the OSU campus.Here are my coordinates:Myron B. Allen
Associate Vice President
Professor of Mathematics
Office of Academic Affairs
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82071-3302
307.766.4286 (voice)
307.766.2206 (fax)

Susan Buchman
hey all,
i’m in my final year as a math major at MIT, where i’ve had an amazing time.. somehow, in between roadtrips, simpsons marathons, and 3 am snow ultimate, i actually managed to absorb a decent amount of math and CS. i also joined the water polo team and i have to say (although many will label this as blasphemy) it definitely trumps ultimate. next year I’ll be moving to manhattan to work for fish and neave, a law firm, and attend law school (still undecided as to which). but don’t worry, i’ll always be a math dork at heart.
susan buchman (’96,’97)p.s. i hope to see everyone at the 2001 reunion.

Neville Campbell
My participation in the 1970 Ross Program had a strong influence on me and was a very memorable adventure.
I received my B.A. in mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Glenn Stevens was my roommate for 2 years.In 1979 I earned my Ph.D. in mathematics from Caltech, where I wrote a thesis under Michael Aschbacher. My research formed part of the classification of finite simple groups. My interest in finite groups started at the Ross program, where I was perplexed by group theory. My confusion resulted in an immediate determination to understand everything about groups. I eventually learned to think deeply about finite groups. It’s fair to say that the Ross Program caused my eventual mathematical research.After Caltech I had an academic position at the University of California, Santa Cruz for 3 years. David Fried had a similar position at UCSC during the same time period.In 1982 I left academia and moved to Silicon Valley where I have been a software engineer for the last 20 years. My first computer job was at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Palo Alto, where I worked on combinatorial optimization of VLSI layout. I later managed software development at a San Francisco company that is now part of Macromedia. My most recent project was part of a video-on-demand system for Diva Systems Corporation (www.divatv.com), a spin off of SRI International in Menlo Park and David Sarnoff Labs in Princeton.

Tien Chiu
I know Prof. Ross likes to hear back from his old students–so an update on my status: I’m moving on from leading a small group of engineering project managers in ecommerce to project-managing a division at Liberate Technologies, which is developing interactive TV solutions (mostly for cable companies). I’ll be doing an interesting mix of political and technical analysis–basically making sure that the various technologies don’t trip over each other while building relationships inside and outside the division to make sure everything gets done smoothly. Lately I have been meshing my interest in group social dynamics with my mathematical background to create a new “group theory”–trying to figure out the basic structures that enable (human) groups to act efficiently, and then apply them to designing organizations. It’s endlessly fascinating.Please tell Prof. Ross that the education I got at the Ross Program has been one of the most valuable things I ever got in that field; it taught me to go *looking* for patterns, rather than just trying to solve the obvious, framed problems with the tools I was given. It’s been an incredibly powerful tool, and has given me a real “leg up” in my profession. I really appreciate it, and still look back on the program fondly. (I attended just one year, in ’86.)

Ed Fein
Today (13 Oct 2000) is my last day with MicroStrategy, incorporated. Next week I start with the RSW, a software startup in Waltham, MA.

Steve Goldstein
Hello,I was in the Ross program at OSU in the summer of 1971. Professor Ross had a deep and simple impact on my thinking and my career. I read of his death today and have been reflecting on my debt to him.I studied math (University of Wisconsin-Madison PhD 1988) and currently do work in bioinformatics.Steve Goldstein
608 South Ingersoll
Madison, WI 53703

Rada Higgins
I remember how Professor Ross used to pace back and forth, from left to right, then from right to left, and again from left to right, like a panther in captivity, when he lectured. He immediately established a wave-length with his audience that held one’s attention as perfectly as the Pied Piper. He was chivalrous, charming and courteous when he addressed his students. His motto was: (which he drummed into us; taken from a statement by Gauss) “Think deeply of simple things!” As a teenager, this motto and admonition became my vow. And even long afterwards, at every bend, cross-road, U-turn of my life, I remembered that motto. The motto seemed to imply that there is nothing so simple and apparent in life or mathematics, that it couldn’t benefit from a deeper scrutiny or analysis. It implied you shouldn’t look too superficially at things, at ideas or even at people. After all, everyone (and every concept) is a “star,” (to put it in the vernacular of pop musician, Sly Stone).I always suspected it was a very deep mind that impressed on me the motto: Think deeply of simple things! The opportunity to study under Dr. Ross and to participate in his summer training program was probably the most singular privilege I have known in my academic life. It was an unforgettable experience, involving unforgettable people. Like novices preparing for a vocation, we ate, slept, talked math. We meditated on the elegance of an ingenious proof or novelty of an audacious conjecture. I soon learn to love this austere, rigorous and vigorous environment dedicated to uncovering the laws, and beauty, of pure reason.Certainly, Dr. Ross shaped my destiny. Through him, I received an NSF Fellowship to follow the graduate program in mathematics at Ohio State University, from where I eventually acquired a doctorate. I was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Howard University after leaving OSU. Unfortunately, my mathematical career faltered, but my interest and love for mathematics and “thinking deeply” has never diminished. I have done quite an amount of scientific research, which is, as yet, unexposed and undeveloped. I have survived the last twenty years principally by operating a one-man business, single-handedly, overseas.

Heath Hohwald
Dr. Ross, I was a student in the Ross Program in 1991 and 1992, which seems like a very long time ago.  I wanted to take a few minutes to let you know what I have done since then, but more importantly to wish you a speedy recovery.  It was with great sadness that I learned you would not be directing next summer’s program, but I suppose all great things must come to an end.After two summers at the Ross program, I pursued mathematics throughout high school and at Harvard, graduating with a degree in Applied Mathematics in 1998.  After graduation, I worked for two years in New York for a Wall Street firm, earning too much money and not spending enough time ‘Thinking deeply about simple things.’ I quit my job in May 2000 and am now pursuing a graduate degree in Computer Science, specializing in Algorithm Analysis. Over the years I have often reflected on the skills I learned during my two summers at the Ross program; learning to think critically, question everything, and to reason properly are hard things to teach but somehow you were able to do all of this. I wish you all the best, and thanks having run such a valuable program for so many years.

Glenn Iba
My brief bio (post OSU):1974 SB Mathematics MIT
1979 SM Mathematics MIT
1980 Machine learning programmer at CMU
1981-1985 Taught computer science at Hampshire College
1985-1996 Machine learning research at GTE Labs
1997-1998 Software developer at Gensym
1998-present part-time free-lance development of puzzles and video games
2001-present Lecturer (math and computer science) in ESG at MITI still have very fond memories of my summers at OSU, and still believe very strongly in “thinking deeply about simple things”.Coincidentally, I’m recently re-exploring some number theory, as a result of reading “The Number Devil” with my daughter. I became intrigued by the claim that every integer was the sum of at most 3 triangle numbers, but was unable to prove it myself. I felt less bad when I learned that Euler also failed. Gauss apparently solved it as a teenager, but the proof (equivalent to expressing 8M+3 as sum of 3 squares) looks decidedly non-trivial. If you know of any “elementary” proofs of this result, I’d love a reference. I’m currently working to digest Gauss’ Disquisitions Arithmeticae (in English translation), but it’s heavy going.Take care,

Rocky Lee
i participated in the SSTP full-time from 1983-85 (i was a junior counselor in ’85) and partially in 1986 (i was on the canadian IMO team that summer). my career after college (where i majored in biology) has basically been in business (consulting/banking type of stuff) and next month [September 2000] i will be joining the u.s. office of a british technology commercialization/venture firm (they were responsible for commercializing magnetic resonance imaging, disposable contact lenses, the hovercraft, interferon, etc.). although i am not directly doing anything that’s math-related, the problem-solving skills that i learned at SSTP have been invaluable. also, i cannot underestimate the importance of the lifelong friendships that i was lucky enough to establish over my four summers. i was quite delighted to hear from you that dr. ross was still very active with the program.

Charles E. Leiserson
My eight weeks at the Ohio State program in the summer of 1970 have left an indelible imprint on my life. I’m now a professor of Computer Science at MIT and the author of a widely read textbook on algorithms. My textbook and my research both reflect the rigor I learned from you in those eight weeks. I’m looking forward to the reunion next summer.

Phil Shapiro
I attended the program in the summer of 1973. My roomates were Stuart Haber and Marty Weinstock. Our counselor was Ray Thomas Dexter Pierrehumbert.I got my BSEE and MSEE from MIT and then went into industry as a circuit designer. Quite a few people from the program attended MIT (Steve Piet, Bob Indik, Steve Weissberg, and others whose names I can’t remember).I recently retired and have moved from silicon valley to Thailand. Now I have a chance to go back and study mathematics in peace and quiet (and without having my poor ego destroyed by many brilliant people).  Location: bouncing around Southeast Asia

Jay Spitzen
In January 2000 I decided I had had my fill of the hassles of working inside a large law firm, and I transformed into a solo practitioner, in which capacity I work at home for a small group of clients (doing the same thing: intellectual property and antitrust law for high technology companies).  I am sorry to hear about Dr. Ross’ stroke and slow recovery.  Please convey to him my best wishes. I will certainly place the dates of the forthcoming reunion on my calendar but, realistically, I am unlikely to make it.  As for me, I got married almost 6 years ago, and my youngest child (of 2) is about to turn 3. She and her older sister are a delight but they are also a fulltime project. My wife is a special education teacher and, fulfilling a long standing goal, has just gotten admitted to a doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin so, in a year or two, we are likely to uproot ourselves for a new adventure (either in Madison or at the University of Oregon, her other main alternative).

Ari Trachtenberg
I am currently a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University. I studied math/cs at MIT as an undergrad. Thinking that it would be too hard to get a job in math, I shifted to CS and did my masters and phd in coding theory at the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign. Now, once again, I’m shifting a little more to the applied side with my current job.