Feb 17, 2016

Obituary: Subramanian “Kesan” Panchapakesan, 1933–2016

Subramanian Kesan Panchapakesan

Subramanian Panchapakesan — known as Kesan among his numerous friends and colleagues — passed away on January 28, 2016, in Chennai (formerly Madras), the city in which he was born on August 27, 1933. Kesan graduated from Vivekananda College in Chennai with a BA(Hons) degree in Mathematics in 1954 and obtained an M.Stat. degree from the Indian Statistical Institute in 1962. He moved to Purdue University, Indiana, in 1965 as a PhD student in Mathematical Statistics. Working under the guidance of Professor Shanti S. Gupta, Kesan wrote his thesis entitled “Some Contributions to Multiple Decision (Selection and Ranking) Procedures” and graduated in 1969. Beginning with this work he had an illustrious career with pioneering contributions to the area of ranking and selection methodology and many other areas of Mathematical Statistics including order statistics, reliability theory, and inference.

Throughout his long academic career, Kesan served in various capacities all over the world. His first academic position was as a lecturer in mathematics at Islamiah College, Vaniambadi, Tamilnadu, India (1955–1960). He retired from the Department of Mathematics at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, after 28 years of distinguished service, and became a Professor Emeritus on June 1, 1998. In between, he worked for the Indian Statistical Institute in various capacities during 1962–65, held visiting faculty positions at Purdue University (1970, ’84, ’86), and at the Institute of Mathematics at Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan (1980). Even in retirement, he continued to be active in research with publications and participation in many international conferences.

Kesan was best known in the research community for the Wiley research monograph, Multiple Decision Procedures: Methodology of Selecting and Ranking Populations, co-authored with S. S. Gupta (1979, SIAM reprint 2002). He published over 80 research papers in journals, edited volumes and as technical reports. He also co-edited, with N. Balakrishnan, a volume entitled Advances in Statistical Decision Theory and Applications (Birkhauser, 1997).

Kesan’s collaborators and fellow researchers celebrated his work with an international conference in his honor in December 2002 in Chennai, and later with a research volume entitled Advances in Ranking and Selection, Multiple Comparisons, and Reliability (N. Balakrishnan, N. Kannan, and H. N. Nagaraja, Birkhauser, 2005).

Kesan was extremely generous with his time in the service of the statistical community and provided mentorship for many young researchers. He served several journals as a referee and as an associate editor for long periods, and wrote many book reviews. In addition to his devotion to statistics, Kesan had a great passion for Indian music and celebrated it with an outstanding collection of reel-to-real audiotapes, compact cassettes, and CDs, and periodic travel to Chennai to listen to maestros of Karnatic music. He also loved to travel and explore different cultures and societies. Kesan leaves behind numerous friends earned through his kindness and genuine interest in people around him.

Written by H.N. Nagaraja, The Ohio State University, and N. Balakrishnan, McMaster University

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