Nov 17, 2014

Obituary: Jagdish Rustagi, 1923–2014

Jagdish Rustagi
Photo from http://www.jagdishrustagi.com/

Jagdish Sharan Rustagi, an eminent statistician and a fellow of IMS, passed away on September 21, 2014, in Sunnyvale, California. He was born on August 13, 1923, in the village of Sikri located in the state of Uttar Pradesh in (then) British India. He obtained his BA (1944) and MA (1946) degrees in Mathematics from University of Delhi, and taught at Hindu College in Delhi before moving to Stanford University with a fellowship in 1952. He completed his PhD degree in Statistics under the guidance of Professor Herman Chernoff in 1956. Rustagi served on the faculties of Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University; 1955–57), Michigan State University (1957–58), Aligarh Muslim University (India; 1958–60), and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine (1961–63), before moving to The Ohio State University (1963–88), where he began his career as an Associate Professor of Mathematics. He was instrumental in the evolution of the Division and then the Department of Statistics, and the starting of the Biostatistics PhD program. He was the Chairman of the Department of Statistics (1979–83, and 1984–88), and expanded the faculty to build one of the largest Statistics graduate programs in the country. He retired as Professor and Chairman Emeritus at Ohio State in 1988.

Rustagi was a fellow of IMS, the American Statistical Association, and the Indian Society for Medical Statistics. He was an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. He served several professional organizations, and national and international agencies, in various capacities and was a member of several journal editorial boards. For IMS, he was the managing editor of the Annals of Statistics and Annals of Probability during 1981–83. Supported by national foundations for his research on optimization, Rustagi organized several national and international conferences on optimization and statistics, and was invited to speak at international statistical conferences and universities all over the world. He was a member of the Review Committee for the National Cancer Institute and reviewed several cancer centers in USA in the 1980s. He was also a member of the United Nations Development Program Project in Statistics in 1989.

Rustagi was well-known for his work on optimization techniques and modeling of biological and medical data. His first publication was on minimizing and maximizing an integral with interesting statistical applications (Ann. Math. Statist. Vol. 28, 1957, 309–328). He went on to edit two volumes on Optimizing Methods in Statistics (Academic Press, 1971, 1979), and author two monographs entitled Variational Methods in Statistics (Academic Press, 1976), and Optimization Techniques in Statistics (Academic Press, 1994). He also published Introductory Statistical Methods (Vol. I, II, Rowman & Littlefield, 1985). In all he had over 50 publications, four books, and edited or co-edited five volumes. He supervised 14 PhD dissertations in Statistics and Biostatistics, and two masters theses in Statistics.

Rustagi continued his active and vibrant life during his retirement with a visiting faculty position at the University of Philippines, and IBM San Jose, and settled down in the Bay area of California, USA. He wrote on his experience as his life path took him across continents, in Sikri to Sunnyvale (2007). He also shared his thoughts on his life experiences in Reflections of Life (2007, 2011), a volume consisting of 58 short essays.

Rustagi radiated a high level of enthusiasm and a sense of hope and endless possibilities for all around him. He was involved in community service throughout his life. He was honored by the Federation of India Associations of Central Ohio with a Distinguished Service Award in 1987. Dr. Bertram Price, an alumnus of the Statistics program at Ohio State from the 1960s, once wrote that Jagdish was “an inspiration [who] made anything and everything seem possible”. Thus, throughout his life, Rustagi touched many lives of students, colleagues, and community members with his mentorship, volunteer work, and unbounded optimism towards humanity. He established an endowment at Ohio State to honor his parents with an annual lecture series in 1987 that has brought several distinguished researchers to the Department of Statistics over the years. His OSU colleagues and visitors to the Statistics Department cherished the hospitality of the Rustagis at their Worthington home. His mentorship, philanthropic, and community service will be missed by all.

He is survived by his wife Kamla, three children, and their families. The website http://www.jagdishrustagi.com/ contains a guest book and further information about him and the causes he supported.

Written by H. N. Nagaraja, The Ohio State University

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