Jul 18, 2012

Obituary: Kesar Singh, 1955–2012

Kesar Singh, a beloved colleague, friend, teacher and extraordinary researcher, left us forever, and far too soon, on Wednesday May 16, 2012.

Kesar had had a massive heart attack the night before and was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, New Brunswick, New Jersey, where heart surgery was unable to save him. His wife Swati and some of his colleagues who were in the hospital got a chance to see him before he passed away peacefully.

Kesar was born on June 20, 1955 into a farming family just outside of Varanasi, India. He got his BSc degree in 1973 from Allahabad University and PhD in 1979 from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata, with Jogesh Babu as his advisor. Kesar was considered exceptionally brilliant by his teachers and fellow students at ISI. He was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1979 to join the Stanford Statistics Department as a postdoc. It was around that time that Brad Efron from Stanford introduced the bootstrap method. Many leading statisticians were racing to provide a theoretical justification for bootstrap. Kesar, as a fresh PhD, was the first to show that the bootstrap approximation is superior to that derived from the Central Limit Theorem for the distribution of the sample mean of i.i.d random variables from a non-lattice distribution. This landmark result and his subsequent seminal work in many statistics areas, including data depth and confidence distributions, made Kesar Singh a household name in bootstrap circles as well as in several other statistics communities. When Brad Efron heard of Kesar’s passing, he commented, “Among other things, Kesar is a key bootstrap guy.”

Kesar joined the Rutgers Statistics Department in 1980 and was promoted to Professor in 1988. He was a brilliant scholar and a beloved teacher. He published almost 100 papers and supervised ten PhD students. He was recognized as a leading statistician worldwide. He was a Fellow of the IMS, and an Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute.

Kesar was an extremely kind and gentle person. He was universally liked and appreciated by students, friends, colleagues, fellow statisticians, as well as neighbors. His students responded very positively to his warmth, kindness and sense of humor. It was always rewarding to work with Kesar. His knowledge of statistics was deep and extensive. His willingness to share his gifts was always present.

Kesar was devoted to his beloved wife Swati, whom he met when they were both students at ISI. He was an avid gardener and he was proud of the beautiful flowers and vegetables that he grew each year. He and Swati also lavished attention and affection on their dogs.

At his funeral service, many people testified to Kesar’s kind, gentle and friendly nature. A neighbor who only knew of him as “Mr. Singh” and was unaware of his connection to Rutgers or his academic eminence, commented that he had always greeted her and her sons with warmth and kindness when they passed by his house and admired the beautiful enormous pumpkin that he grew each year.

The Department of Statistics at Rutgers and the statistics community have lost an outstanding scholar, teacher, and friend. He will be greatly missed for his enormous intellect, as well as his constant generosity, gentleness, and kindness.

Written by:
Jogesh Babu, Penn State University
Regina Liu, Rutgers University
William Strawderman, Rutgers University
Minge Xie, Rutgers University

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8 Comments

  • I am very saddened to learn that Kesar passed away. I met him only very briefly when I was visiting Rutgers University. I still remember him very clearly, because of his warmth and simplicity. I also remember that the first thing that he talked about was his dog. Whenever I read papers on bootstrap, I see a citation of his seminal work. It is very sad that Kesar passed away at such a young age.

  • Dr. Singh was a great professor and brilliant person. I enjoyed our conversations and will miss taking his classes. Gone too soon.

  • Kesar was an academician who set standard for outstanding publications. He never compromised in his research. His sense of humor, love for animals (including his own dogs) set him apart from most people. His ardent love for garden amazed all his neighbors. Kesar’s neighbors waited for summer to watch his flowers bloom to bring smile in their faces. He would be missed by most who loved him. He was a lovely teacher and loved by his students.

  • I have known Mr. Singh since I was a baby! We have been neighbors for 25 years! Mr. Singh is the nicest, most generous, sweetest, and smartest man ever! He used to spoil me as a kid, and always treated me like his own daughter. He is an amazing gardener, and his wife, house, and dogs were the joy of his life! He did such a great job on his house. His dogs loved him more than we can know! And, his wife stands tall (although not physically) right beside him as all of the qualities listed. The neighborhood has missed him tremendously, but his legacy lives on through his beautiful scenic gardens, and his family (all 5 of them!). We miss you Mr. Singh, and we think about you all the time. This world lost a great man, and we hope to take that little bit of grace you left, and manifest it through our own lives.

    PS: I wish I saw Dr. Singh in the classroom, teaching, as well – but I know he was great at that as well, what a genius!

  • I am shocked to learn today that Kesar is no more. I have known Kesar since 1971 when we both joined Allahabad University for Graduation. We passed out from Allahabad University together in 1973 and joined Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta together for post -graduation. While Kesar continued pursuing his interest in Statisics after post graduation, I left ISI in 1976 to join Govt. Service. We remained in touch over phone/letters after that till early 2012, after which though I tried to reach out to him on phone but couldn’t do so, little knowing I would never listen to his pure voice again. I have always remembered him as a super-genius – a gift of God to the mankind – and shall miss him till I join him again !!

  • I am very proud feel because he was brother my grandfather

  • My dear Kesar Singh,

    I was shocked to learn that you have left this world for ever. While surfing the net, suddenly I thought of you, and immediately typed in your name, only to see you obituary! I always used to admire and salute your exceptional intellect. But more than the head-quality, your-heart quality was way ahead. I will remember you for ever, more for your generous, jovial, ever-helping nature. Your love for animals and plants was very much in keeping with your tender nature.

    Swati, accept my deep condolences on the sad demise of your life(!) partner, and my friend who will ever stand out as ‘dhruva tara’, ever lightening not just the academic world, but also the people at large about co-existence of head-quality and heart-quality. True to his name, the aroma of Kesar will ever freshen people

    Kanchan M. Date
    M. Stat classmate of Kesar

  • Anniversaries come one after the other, this is a painful one that overwhelms me. The days dawn, nights fall, love for you is never lost,

    I wish you spoke to me, inspire me to get through whatever is left of my life. Would you help me my love, Kesar?

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