Jul 15, 2011

Obituary: Timothy Robertson 1937–2010

Professor Tim Robertson passed away on April 5, 2010, to the regret of his colleagues, family and friends. His former students, collaborators and colleagues who had held him in high esteem throughout his distinguished academic career covering 39 years in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at The University of Iowa mourned his passing.
Professor Robertson died suddenly at the age of 72. He was preceded in death by his loving wife and lifelong companion Joan, who had passed away on February 25, 2010. He is survived by his four children–Kelly, Jana, Doug and Mike–and six grandchildren.
Timothy Joel Robertson, son of Helen Oliver-Girdner and stepfather Flick Girdner, was born October 4, 1937, in Denver, CO. Tim’s family moved to Chilicothe, MO, in 1942. He graduated from Chilicothe High School in 1955. Tim attended the University of Missouri in Columbia and received his B.A. in mathematics in 1959. He and Joan were married prior to his senior year at M.U. Tim entered Graduate School in the fall of 1959, and obtained his M.S. in mathematics in 1961. Tim accepted an Assistant Professor position in mathematics at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA, and he and Joan also served as houseparents in the men’s dormitory from 1961–1963.
Tim and Joan enjoyed the environment at Cornell College, but they decided to return to Columbia, MO, in 1963 for Tim to pursue his Ph.D. Tim’s thesis advisor at M.U. was H.D. (Dan) Brunk, and he and Tim established a close friendship which existed until Dan’s death in 2009. Dan instilled an appreciation for mathematical rigor and a thrill of research in Tim that carried through Tim’s entire academic life. Tim joined the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Iowa as a new Ph.D. in 1965. Tim was a good teacher and researcher, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1968, and to full Professor in 1974. Eighteen students wrote their Ph.D. dissertations under Professor Robertson’s guidance. Most became successful scholars in their own rights, and several maintained contact with Professor Robertson until his death.
Professor Robertson was a successful and well-respected scholar. He was a Fellow of both the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. He was elected to membership in the International Statistical Institute, and he was an active member of the Mathematical Association of America. Professor Robertson was the lead author (with F.T. Wright and R.L. Dykstra) on the monograph “Order Restricted Statistical Inference,” which was considered the standard reference on the topic. Tim was the recipient of a University of Iowa Collegiate Teaching Award in 1990 and was generally recognized as being an outstanding teacher. Tim served as Associate Editor for several statistical journals, and also took an active role in University activity. He served on the Educational Policy Committee for several years as well as on the Board in Control of Athletics. Though Tim was a demanding advisor, he was also nurturing. Though he had high expectations of his students, his office door was always open to them. Tim was enthusiastic in the classroom, and many of his students recall being kept on their toes by relevant questions being directed at them.
Tim eventually developed many interests outside the University. Tim loved the outdoors and often took his family on camping and canoeing trips to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and various Iowa rivers. Tim trained hunting dogs, competed in field trials with them, and was a founding member of the Eastern Iowa Shooting Dog Association. In 1992, Tim and Joan purchased a farm near the Cedar River at Cedar Bluffs. They built a modest home (referred to as the Cabin) on the farm, and the Cabin was later enlarged to become the elegant, comfortable home that he and Joan enjoyed until their deaths.
Tim loved his children, grandchildren, children’s spouses, dogs, jawbreakers, horses, fishing, red sweatshirts, beautiful sunsets, risqué songs, his four wheeler, riding his bike to work, a good debate, and popcorn. Tim was a man of great intellect, passion, laughter, strength and love that will be missed by all who knew him.

Richard Dykstra
Professor of Statistics & Actuarial Science
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The University of Iowa.
This obituary first appeared on the University of Iowa’s website and is reproduced by kind permission.


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