In Memoriam

Exterior of Upham Hall on a snowy day

Edward M. Bolger
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Statistics
1938 - 2014

Edward M. Bolger, of Oxford, Ohio, passed away on July 23, 2014.  He is survived by his devoted spouse Alice, children Mike and Bill, grandchildren; and many colleagues and friends.

Ed was raised in Marion Gardens, a low rent housing project in Jersey City.  His first job was changing the votive candles once a week in his church where he earned $1 per week.  Recognizing Ed’s potential his church supported his attendance at St. Peter's Prep, a Jesuit prep school.  Knowing that his family could not afford the tuition, the priest offered to pay half and hired Ed's mother for $25/week as the parish secretary.  Ed graduated from high school as the valedictorian and earned a full scholarship to St. Peter's College in New Jersey.

Ed and Alice met at the local Senior Youth Club; they were married after Ed’s graduation from college.  He applied for assistantships at various graduate schools (all with good football teams) and received six assistantship offers.  He chose Penn State where he earned his master's degree.  His academic mentor, Dr. Harkness, encouraged Ed to continue his work at Penn State and he earned a Ph.D. there in 1964.

After earning his doctorate Ed taught at Bucknell University for three years.  While there he attended an NSF summer institute at Bowdoin College with 29 other mathematicians, one of whom was Elwood Bohn, the chair of the Mathematics Department at Miami.  Bohn suggested that Ed apply for an opening at Miami University.  Ed had little knowledge of Miami and even less about Oxford, Ohio, yet he was looking for a change.  He accepted the offer at Miami with the intention of staying 2-3 years, but ended up remaining there from 1967 – 2002.

Ed was an outstanding teacher who had very high standards. He was keen to engage and encourage students and positively impacted many of their lives.  He was often sought out by colleagues for advice on matters involving teaching and advising.  He served as Director of Graduate Studies for the department for many years and his advice was greatly valued by numerous students.  

While serving as the department’s Graduate Director, he received a call from a young woman inquiring about a job posting (who had reached Ed’s line in error). When he realized the confusion, rather than hang up, Ed inquired about her background and interests. By the time they’d finished speaking, he had persuaded her to apply to the master’s degree program in statistics. Florence Fulk not only earned her MS at Miami, but she also earned a Ph.D. in Epidemiology and serves as an environmental statistician at the US EPA.  Hers is just one of the many lives Ed touched.   

During his career at Miami, the current Mathematics and Statistics Departments were a single entity.  Ed was an important bridge person between the two disciplines and he created STA 663, the popular course in Applied Probability taken by master’s candidates in both fields.  Students gained an appreciation for both real analysis and probability by struggling to solve the challenging problems Ed assigned them.  Many students indicated that this course was the one that impacted them the most in their Miami careers. 

Ed was a productive scholar, writing articles about Game Theory and Voting Theory. His book Topics in Game Theory, based on course notes he used in teaching a popular Game Theory course at Miami, still remains current and is available on Amazon.  He also published articles about power indices measuring voters’ abilities to change the outcomes of elections.  Throughout his career he remained intellectually engaged in his field.

Bolger was an excellent departmental colleague and an influential citizen at Miami.  He did not hesitate to voice his opinion on issues, but always respected the views of others.  He was heavily involved in developing the statistics program at Miami.  In the fall of 1969 Professors Bolger, Waikar and Weber attended a conference at the University of Iowa where they discussed the details of a master's in statistics degree.  With the support of the department a master's degree program in statistics was developed and adopted.  The program remains popular today with hundreds of students having earned the degree since its inception. 

Bolger lived a full life and positively impacted those around him.  He had a great sense of humor and it was a joy being in his company.  He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.  He loved Penn State football, model trains, his loyal dogs, fishing, the New York Yankees, and Miami basketball.  In retirement he was a founding member of the department’s ROMEO Club (retired old mathematicians eating out) that met weekly at McDonalds. 

Ed was an outstanding colleague, teacher and mentor to many students. His career at Miami was a significant one and his contributions were many.  He will be greatly missed!

Respectfully submitted by Emily Murphree, John Skillings and Vasant Waikar