Apr 1, 2015

Obituary: Robert (Bob) Hogg, 1924–2014

44_03 robert bob hogg 2006

Robert V. “Bob” Hogg, Professor Emeritus of Statistics and Actuarial Science, passed away on December 23, 2014, in Highlands Ranch, CO, aged 90. Professor Hogg was an internationally renowned statistics textbook author, pioneering researcher, and an award-winning teacher. Blessed with a fun-loving, charismatic personality and a sharp mind, Bob has been aptly described as a giant in statistics. Through his invaluable service to the profession, including a term as president of the American Statistical Association, Bob marshaled efforts to improve statistics education and left his mark in many other ways. The founding chair of the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Iowa in 1965, Bob will be remembered by his colleagues as an indefatigable and inspirational leader who fostered an atmosphere of mutual respect. He valued diverse contributions, promoted excellence, and energized the department with his mantra, “Let’s make learning fun.” His legacy will endure. His convivial personality and especially his friendship will never be forgotten.

Bob was born November 28, 1924, in Hannibal, Missouri. (He was fond of reminding folks, tongue-in-cheek, that another famous author, Mark Twain, hailed from Hannibal.) After receiving his BS in mathematics at the University of Illinois, he matriculated at the University of Iowa in 1947. Fortunately for the university, he was to remain there until he retired 54 years later. Blessed with a gregarious personality and quick wit, Bob was a fixture on campus and in the Iowa City community. Whether handing out candy canes across campus dressed as Santa or telling (and re-telling) amusing stories at Rotary Club meetings, his love of the university and the community was conspicuous.

Bob earned his PhD in 1950, under the direction of Allen T. Craig, a statistician in the UI mathematics department. Allen, who would become Bob’s long-time friend, mentor, and co-author, convinced Bob to join the faculty upon graduation. After 15 years in the mathematics department, Bob became the founding Chair of the newly formed Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science in 1965. Serving in this capacity for 19 years, Bob created a world-class department that valued diverse contributions and promoted excellence in all three areas: research, service, and teaching. He fostered an atmosphere of mutual respect and was fond of reminding everyone that learning should be fun—he practiced what he preached. Bob was an inspirational and effective leader loved by his staff and known for his skills as a consensus builder. He was a man of action and most importantly a strong advocate of his colleagues, especially junior faculty members.

Many in the department will remember how Bob went out of his way to encourage young faculty members and students. He would hand-deliver short notes of congratulation when a paper was published or peek his head into an office just to give a few words of encouragement. He never missed an opportunity to thank someone for a job well done. A wonderful mentor, he enjoyed team teaching with junior faculty right up his retirement. The department fondly remembers Bob’s “final” colloquium talks. (There were three or four of these “final” talks, which would not surprise those who knew Bob.) He would begin by saying, “Statistics is my friend,” because it introduced him to so many interesting people from around the world. The “ham in hogg” was manifest in his telling (and re-telling) of amusing stories and jokes. Always the entertainer, Bob would end each of these talks with a modified rendition of the song, Thanks for the Memories.

Bob was not only devoted to the department and the university, he also served the statistics profession in many ways. Among other things, Bob served as the President of the ASA in 1988. He was Program Secretary for the IMS (1968–74). He twice chaired the ASA’s Education Section, and he was twice the Program Chair of the ASA Winter Conferences. In 1991, he received the ASA Founders Award. And in 2006, he received the IMS Carver Medal for his “exceptional service specifically to the IMS.” His vision and charisma served him well, and the profession has benefited greatly from his efforts.

Bob was a pioneering researcher who wrote many influential articles on topics including statistical independence, non-parametrics, quality improvement, robust and adaptive statistics, and statistics education. For his research contributions in non-parametric statistics, Bob received the Gottfried Noether Senior Scholar Award in 2001. This award is one of several prestigious awards bestowed on Bob over the years. In recognition of his outstanding research, Bob was an elected fellow of the ASA and IMS, and of the International Statistical Institute.

A gifted textbook author and a true scholar, Bob was an exemplar of how research can inform and energize teaching, and vice versa. Bob, along with his mentor Allen Craig, co-authored a very successful mathematical statistics textbook that drew on their research and classroom experiences. This book, known to many as “Hogg and Craig,” was innovative in its treatment of sufficiency and change-of-variable methods. Originally published in 1959, “Hogg and Craig” is now in its 7th edition (which added Joe McKean as a co-author). Printed in many languages, it is internationally renowned and continues to inspire a new generation of statistics students. Over the years, Bob co-authored several more successful statistics textbooks, including “Hogg and Tanis,” “Hogg and Klugman” and “Hogg and Ledolter,” all benefited from Bob’s attention to detail and his clear writing style.

Students and colleagues remember Bob as an extraordinary teacher with an infectious love of statistics. Indeed, Bob fostered a culture of excellence in teaching in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science that lives on to this day. His lively teaching style was very effective, if a bit unconventional. One of his techniques was to good-naturedly “pick on” a randomly selected student, quizzing him or her throughout the class period. That this approach worked so well, and that students all report learning so much, is a testament to Bob’s gift as a teacher and his ability to make learning fun. In recognition of his teaching efforts and effectiveness, Bob was honored with numerous awards. From 1990–1993 alone, he received the Governor’s Science Medal for Teaching (1990), University of Iowa Teaching Award (1991), Distinguished Teaching Award from the Iowa Chapter of the Mathematical Association of America (1992), Faculty Excellence Award from the Iowa Board of Regents (1992), and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the MAA (1993).

Bob’s interest in teaching went well beyond his own classrooms. He was internationally recognized as a leader in statistics education when he received the ASA’s Founders Award in 1991. Always a promoter of quality improvement, he once toured the country, visiting businesses, industry, and academic programs to better understand how statistics education could be improved and modernized to better align with the way statistics was actually being used in practice. He also took advantage of his term as president of the ASA to emphasize the need to improve statistics education. Bob authored and co-authored several influential papers on statistics education. Owing to Bob’s many contributions, the statistics profession and classrooms are healthier than ever.

In 2003, Bob was the recipient of the University of Iowa’s Faculty/Staff Distinguished Alumni Award. It is fitting to finish with a quote from Bob’s profile at the award website: “The Alumni Association is proud to honor a man whose career has helped define the field of statistics, and whose work as an educator has benefited—and will continue to benefit—generations of students at the UI and throughout the world.”

For more information about Bob Hogg, see for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_V._Hogg; Randles, R.H. (2007), “A Conversation with Robert V. Hogg,” Statistical Science, 22:1, 137–152, DOI: 10.1214/088342306000000637; and Randles, R.H. & Calvin, J.A. (1996), “The Professional Contributions of Robert V. Hogg,” Communications in Statistics – Theory and Methods, 25:11, 2467-2481, DOI: 10.1080/03610929608831850.

Written by Joseph B. Lang, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Iowa


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