In Memoriam

Donald C. Weber
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Statistics

Donald C. Weber, professor emeritus of mathematics and statistics, passed away on October 8, 2013. He is survived by his devoted wife Elaine; four children: Lynn, Mark, Heidi, and David; nine grandchildren; and many colleagues and friends.

Don was born on April 23, 1925, to Walter and Florence Weber in Wausau, Wisconsin. He grew up in Marathon City, Wisconsin, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving initially in WWII and again later in the Korean Conflict. Interestingly, part of his WWII training took place in Oxford, Ohio, long before he became a faculty member at Miami University. In between his two enlistments, he attended the University of Wisconsin, graduating with a degree in education in 1949. He returned to the University of Wisconsin after his second enlistment, this time earning a master’s degree in mathematics in 1954. He then worked as a teacher and an actuary in North Dakota and Wisconsin for several years before returning to graduate school. He began his doctoral studies at North Carolina State University in 1963 and earned his Ph.D. in biomathematics in 1970. His dissertation involved the use of the Poisson distribution applied to traffic problems. He was very proud of that work and presented it at national and regional meetings. Don had a keen, active mind, and throughout his career he continued to be active in the general field of statistics, resulting in a book and a number of publications.

After leaving North Carolina State, Don came to the Mathematics Department at Miami University in 1967, where he remained until retiring in 1989. Much of Don’s training at North Carolina State was in the area of statistics, which is one of the reasons he was hired by Miami. The department aimed to build its program in statistics to meet the increasing demand for courses in that area. Don and his colleagues, Ed Bolger (who also was hired in 1967) and Vasant Waikar (who arrived in 1968), were tasked with the responsibility of adding to the statistics curriculum.

Don took to heart his opportunity to build the curriculum in the department. He was responsible for the actuarial program within the department as his previous work as an actuary was very helpful at Miami. He had the major responsibility for developing the regression and design of experiments courses for the department. He also contributed to the development of a graduate course in statistics for the students of the Institute of Environmental Science.

When Weber, Bolger, and Waikar attended a meeting in Iowa City in 1970, they discussed the idea of starting a master’s degree program in statistics within the Mathematics Department. Don fondly called that event the birth of the master’s program, and the program became a formal reality in 1971. Don was an integral part of that program, teaching the advanced statistics theory, regression, and design of experiments courses as well as constructing and administering comprehensive exams required for master’s degree students. Throughout Don’s career he made a major, positive impact on the field of statistics at Miami; and the field of statistics had grown considerably when he retired in 1989. In fact, the department changed its name from “Mathematics” to “Mathematics and Statistics” partly to recognize the increased curriculum in statistics and the work of Don and his colleagues.

Don was popular and well-respected as a teacher by students in his undergraduate and graduate statistics courses. He expected much from his students and was quick to praise when students did well in his classes. Don always had time for students, and his office door was continually open to them. Students could count on that “twinkle” in Don’s eyes when they asked him an insightful question. He closely followed the careers of his students and celebrated his former students’ accomplishments. He kept in touch with many students, and when they returned to Oxford, they often visited with Don. He was pleased to have been nominated for the Alumni Association’s Effective Educator Award.

He had a unique classroom style. On occasions when lecturing, his voice would rise with a booming crescendo that would gather each student’s attention. It was impossible for a student to catch up on a lost night’s sleep in one of Don’s classes. In fact, faculty with offices close to Don’s classroom would share in those booming crescendos! It was one Don’s characteristics that students remember fondly. Don particularly enjoyed teaching courses in regression and design of experiments. He developed a set of written notes for the courses that he shared with students, and these were used in his classes for many years. Former students would comment how useful these notes were and how they had kept them on their bookshelf as a valuable reference. The notes would eventually be the core of a book entitled, A First Course in the Design of Experiments: A Linear Models Approach that was co-authored with Don’s colleague, John Skillings, and published in 2000 by CRC Press. Don also developed a set of extensive notes that were used for the basic statistics course for the Environmental Science master’s degree program.

Don was a very good colleague who was always willing to aid others either professionally or personally. For example, in June 1968, Vasant and Sarla Waikar (expecting their first child in two months) drove to Oxford from Florida with a trailer and parked in front of Culler Hall (then home of the Mathematics Department). Don Weber happened to be standing outside Culler Hall and, after a brief chat, invited the Waikars to his home that evening where they met Elaine Weber and the Weber children and were made to feel at home by the Weber’s hospitality. This is one of many examples of how Don went out of his way to make a colleague feel welcome at Miami.

In addition to his professional duties, Don was active in the community. He was a devout Christian and a long-time, active member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hamilton, Ohio. For many years he handled the finances for his church. To add to his passion for teaching, Don loved to travel; in fact, he was the ultimate vacation planner, whether for his own family or for friends. He was always available to assist in the pursuit of the perfect vacation. Don also enjoyed classical music and Miami sports, especially basketball and football, and following the lives of his children and grandchildren. One could easily fill the afternoon in a conversation with Don about his latest travel or the latest accomplishments of his family.

Don’s life was one well lived. He made wonderful contributions to his University, was well loved by his family, respected by his colleagues and adored by his students. If you listen closely, you can still hear his voice booming on the second floor of Bachelor Hall from one of his classes. He will be missed!

Respectfully submitted by Robert Schaefer, John Skillings, and Vasant Waikar