Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Michael Heath:

I have many fond memories of Joe, but no anecdote quite as
"striking" as Michael Overton's. I agree with Michael that Joe's role as
sole mentor for the NA students during our first year at
Stanford (Michael and I entered the same year) was especially
important in getting our grad student careers off to a good start.
I didn't really think of this at the time, but Joe was not long out of
graduate school himself at that point, and he showed remarkable
maturity to lead the group so effectively at such an early stage of
his own career. I recall many enjoyable evenings at Joe and
Debby's place, as well as NA lunches, etc.

One indication of Joe's thoughtfulness and caring for students is
that during my second year at Stanford, Mona and I were married
in Virginia during the Christmas break (as Michael will well
remember, having been part of the wedding), and Joe was kind
enough to meet us at the SFO airport upon our return --- you
don't see a lot of professors doing that for their students these
days. Moreover, Joe and Debby gave a reception for Mona and
me in honor of our marriage, which seemed way beyond the call
of duty, but very much appreciated by us and very much in
character for Joe.
Andrew Stuart:

I first met Joe when visiting NASA Ames in 1991, where RIACS was located when he was Director. On the first meeting I found him inscrutable. I joined the faculty at Stanford, in Computer Science, in 1992, and got to know Joe a little better. I remember sitting with him soon after arriving,over the road from Margaret Jacks Hall, under the trees, with tiny caterpillars falling on and around us. To the extent that I was able to concentrate in this strange rain, I remember that he told me his views ofthe good and the bad of life in California and Stanford. Professionally he was quietly very supportive. In particular he backed all my plans for minor curriculum reform in Numerical Analysis, and adapted his own teaching schedule to help me develop mine. I was always grateful for this.

He never seemed entirely comfortable at Stanford in the time I was there. I hope that he found greater comfort in retirement.
Wei-Pai Tang:

Joe's enthusiastic attitude was infectious. So many of his outstanding students from Stanford were attracted and made distinguished careers later. Joe also had a big heart to help the students in difficulties. I was one of them. Here are the first two paragraphs from the acknowledgement of my thesis that I would like share with you:

The march leading to my Ph.D. has been long and difficult, though on its path I have also found happiness and fulfillment. There is a long list of individuals who have helped me in many ways. I want to thank them for what they have given me.I am deeply indebted to Professor Joseph Oliger for providing me guidance and support through my years at Stanford the most valuable lesson I learned from him is not to just follow where the path may lead, but to go where there is no path. During the crises of my academic life, his confidence in me and his generous support have made this thesis possible. Now, I am very proud of saying: I am another new member of the large academic Oliger “family”.
Jim Lambers:

I was one of Joe's last students, before Gene Golub took over as my adviser upon Joe's retirement. One thing in particular that I admired about him was his ability to recognize potential new applications for existing ideas, including those from outside of computational mathematics. My work with him originated from a purely analytical paper by Charles Fefferman on the Uncertainty Principle. Joe believed that the ideas in this paper could be useful for computational methods. This readiness to examine old ideas in a new light set an example for me to follow.

I have been thinking that a nice way to honor Joe's memory would be a survey paper that summarizes not only his work, but also what has emerged from it, through the work of his students. I would be interested in hearing any thoughts about this.
Margot Gerritsen:

Dear all,

I was one of Joe's last students. He had already retired partly at that time, but we did share some wonderful times on the boat, skiing and rock climbing. He taught me in his own way how to be confident that things work out one way or another. I did not quite believe him that time I was stuck half way up a 5.9 rock the first time I ever climbed. But, he just rolled a cigarette, sat down and called up to me "Take your time, I'm in no hurry".

I'm sorry I did not try harder to keep in touch with Joe. He had a great heart, and I will miss him.Margot
Tony Chan:

First time I use a "blog" and it is a sad occasion. The last time I saw Joe was probably 10 years ago when he was still at Stanford. We took a long walk together. He already knew he would be retiring and move to the Sierras.So many memories about Joe!I still remember when I first met Joe in 1973-1974 at Serra House, when I was a new graduate student, and he was a visitor from Uppsala. I remember Joe's office next to the seminar room and the kitchen. I remember "baby sitting" Nicholas and Jason when Joe and Debbie took a long trip to Sweden. Of course, who can forget the numerous parties at the Oligers!!! He was particularly proud of his Japanese style smoker. Joe was a great carpenter/builder. Many of us remember he led the effort and built the trellis of Serra House --- the photos are at Mike Heath's homepage. His boat shared with Jon Clarebout. The little record book he had showing he was the first to have climbed one of the peaks in the Rockies.

My last main professional interaction with Joe was when he was Director of RIACS and I was a frequent visitor.Joe had a great group of PhD students in my era and most of us are still in the math/cs profession and do see each other frequently. In fact, 3 of us (Nick, Marsha and I) saw each other at the SIAM HQ as recently as last Saturday (12/9/05) --- as members of SIAM's Board of Trustees. Joe had a great influence on each of us and we'll remember him fondly forever.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Michael Overton:

I have very fond memores of Joe Oliger. He and his wife Debbie were very kind to me when I was a graduate student, especially my first year, when everything was still so strange and he was the only NA professor at Serra House (Gene was away on sabbatical).

His kindness and encouragement were certainly big factors in my completing that first year successfully and feeling ready ready to go on.... Later, in the summer of 1982, when I stayed in the same house as Marsha and Jonathan next door to Joe and Debbie, I had some great times with them.
One time, they went away and I drove Nick and Jason up to San Francisco in the Oligers' Volvo station wagon for a day in the city ending with dropping them off at the bus station where they were catching an overnight bus to summer camp. The three of us had a great time but the day ended very dramatically when I realized I had locked the keys in the car and we did not have much time before being due at the bus station - and Nick and Jason's stuff was all in the car! There happened to be a security guard working by the car and when he saw our quandary he offered to break the window for us - there was no time to wait for AAA! His first attempt failed so he returned with a sledgehammer: BANG!, the window was history. Nick and Jason were very impressed and so was Joe when he returned from the trip and I told him the story!Meanwhile Rob had kindly helped me replace the window - sort of! I had screwed up by buying the wrong part but Joe didn't care -he thought the story was so great! Anyway, that's what he let me think and I think it was true.

Joe was one of the kindest and gentlest people I ever met. I was very sorry not to see him much in the last 20 years, but I have nothing but fond memories of him.

Michael Overton