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Steve Schanuel has passed away

Stephen H. Schanuel passed away July 21, 2014 just a few days after his 81st birthday on Bastille Day. He leaves his son Jason, daughter Lynn (Carlos), grand daughter Jenna, and a sister (?).

Steve Schanuel at Danilo

Steve came from modest beginnings in St. Louis where his mother struggled to care for Steve and his, his three sisters and a brother. Steve’s father was a traveling salesman. Even though he won free tuition to Princeton, he worked long hours in a cafeteria where he got free food. One of his professors (I forget who) impressed with his ability, discovered Steve's circumstances, was concerned he did not have enough time to do mathematics, and subsequently obtained a scholarship to support Schanuel's room and board.

Steve began graduate school in Mathematics at The University of Chicago where we worked with Irving Kaplansky. He earned his PhD from Columbia in 1963 under Serge Lang. Before joining UB in 1972, he was at Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and SUNY Stony Brook. Though Steve came here as a heralded young Number Theorist, his contributions to Algebra were nearly as notable. Schanuel’s Lemma in Homological Algebra was publicized by Kaplansky when Steve was a student. In Number Theory, the Schanuel Conjecture, also discovered when he was a student, is a famous still open problem (for a brief statement see my article "Million-Buck Problems" in The Mathematical Intelligencer (2002), for an early study see James Ax’s article "On Schanuel’s Conjectures," Annals of Mathematics 1971.)

Steve’s interests were very wide, so wide that many of our colleagues outside Algebra and Number Theory would talk with him. Steve has written with several of our colleagues; however, he was a long time collaborator with our colleague F. William (Bill) Lawvere, with whom he wrote papers and published a popular book "Conceptual Mathematics." A second book, "Objective Number Theory" is forthcoming.

From 1986 until 1998, Steve was a member of the Friday after school "Sign of the Steer" (on Main street) beer group whose nucleus was Don Schack, Mohan Ramachandran, Jim Reineck, Bill Lawvere and Scott Williams. From 1998 to 2010 that group became the coffee group at Wegmans and the "Coffee Bean Cafe" now renamed the restaurant "Shango" on Main Street where much mathematics (Number Theory, Measure Theory, Category Theory, Topology, Set Theory), and politics, music, art and psychology was discussed six or seven days a week. We met nearly every Saturday morning and once a month on Sunday morning.

I have many fond personal memories of Steve, beginning with discussing poetry with his wife Joan and he during the 1970s. Steve was quite humble. People were often surprised with what he knew. If someone's wife or child were present, he would show interest and listen to them. He was a span, enjoying football, tennis, and track & field.

Once, when Steve visited my home in the 1980s, he brought his guitar. After dinner he complained that he did not know how to improvise on the instrument. Though I could not play the guitar, I played the piano. At our piano I improvised three pieces by respectively George Gershwin, Miles Davis and Rogers & Hammerstein. Steve said, "like that?" and then proceeded to improvise on the piano so much better than I that I never again played in front of him. Yes it was the guitar, not the piano, that caused his problem. In the 1990s Steve introduced me to the poet Billy Collins. A few years later, I owned five Collins poetry books. My most striking mathematical memory was during the 11 weeks in 2005 when I was hospitalized. Steve and Don Schack visited me daily for hours, where we read and tried to work out all the known solutions of Hilbert’s problems.

Steve retired in 2011 and left Buffalo a year later to be near his daughter Lynn and family in Florida.

I received the following note from Jill Paolini who studied with Steve and I:

"That makes me so sad. I loved him. I wrote a poem, "Ode to My Math Teacher," about him. and bought "Conceptual Mathematics" for myself for my birthday. We used to call him 'Schanuel the Manual' because he needed and used no book. He had a glint in his eye, like Santa, even if he shaved his white beard in December. I am so sorry to hear he passed. I will nurture what he taught me, and remember him with a smile on my face, even though right now I am looking through a layer of water. I remember one day in class... I asked a question and Professor Schanuel said, "That's a great question. Does anyone mind if I discuss this instead of what I was going to talk about? This is far more interesting." I also remember clearly our final exam for a 400/500 level algebra course. He gave us each 8 pieces of blank paper and told us to show him we had learned something. He said we could prove our favorite theorem, or solve a problem we could not have solved prior to his course. He concluded by telling us that he needed some encouragement, and asked us to please show him that we had learned something. Vu To was sitting next to me. He was about 18 years old, a math Olympian from Vietnam. I remember he looked so surprised and wrote nothing for at least 15 minutes... and then proceeded to write with confidence and probably encouraged Professor Schanuel with a beautiful treatise. Another story comes to mind... and another…"

Scott Williams July 27, 2014

URGE students win best paper award

Congratulations to undergraduate Math majors Sean Kafer, Matthew Szczepankiewicz, and Joshua Terhaar, who received the Best Student Paper Award for their presentation "On Intersection Graphs of Convex Polygons" at the International Workshop on Combinatorial Image Analysis, IWCIA'14, in Brno, Czech Republic, May 28-30, 2014. Matt and Sean are students at UB, and Josh is at Buffalo State. The work was conducted in our undergraduate research apprenticeship program "URGE to Compute" under the mentorship of Prof. Valentin Brimkov of the Mathematics Department at Buffalo State. [June 2014] MCM Teams 2014 L to R: Matthew Szczepankiewicz, Joshua Terhaar, and Sean Kafer in downtown Brno.

Undergraduates compete in Mathematical Contest in Modeling

Congratulations to our two teams of undergraduates participating in the 2014 Mathematical Contest in Modeling. The team of Andrew Harris, Dante Iozzo, and Nigel Michki was designated as "Meritorious Winner" (top 9%) and the team of George Braun, Collin Olander, and Jonathan Tang received honorable mention (top 31%). John Ringland served as the faculty advisor to both teams. The Mathematical Contest in Modeling is a multi-day mathematics competition held this year from Feburary 6-8. It is distinguished from other major mathematical competitions such as Putnam by its strong focus on research, originality, teamwork, communication and justification of results. This year there were 6755 teams participating from around the world. [April 2014] MCM Teams 2014 L to R: Dante Iozzo, Nigel Michki, Andrew Harris, Collin Olander, George Braun, Jonathan Tang.

Kim Javor wins SUNY Chancellor's Award

The Mathematics Department congratulates Kim Javor for winning the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching. This is the inaugural year of this SUNY-wide program recognizing the very best adjunct instructors. In initiating the program, Interim SUNY Provost Bringsjord noted "one of SUNY's most important distinctions is the wealth of accomplished educators and consummate professionals among its ranks. The Excellence Awards are a recognition of, and tribute to, the expertise, dedication and commitment of these individuals. Award recipients personify professional excellence and serve as role models for the SUNY community." [February 2014] Kim Javor

Fourth Upstate New York Number Theory Conference at UB

Professor June Zhu is co-organizing the Fourth Annual Upstate New York Number Theory Conference, to be held at UB on April 26-27, 2014. More information about the conference can be found at [February 2014]