With great sadness I inform you that Paul E. Pfeiffer, Professor Emeritus of Computational and Applied Mathematics, passed away peacefully Sunday morning, October 7, at the age of 95.
Paul joined Rice as an undergraduate in 1934. He received his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering at Rice in 1938 and 1948, respectively, and his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Rice in 1952. In between, Paul earned a Bachelor of Divinity from the Perkins School of Theology at SMU in 1943. Paul was on the Rice faculty from 1947 until 1998, first as an instructor and, after receiving his PhD, as an assistant, then an associate, and since 1959, as a full professor.
Paul has influenced Rice's development in many substantial ways. His positions at Rice included: Chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering 1960-1963, Chairman of the Department of Mathematical Sciences 1974-1975, interim master of both Wiess College and Brown College, and Dean of Students 1965 - 1969.
Perhaps Paul's greatest impact on Rice arises from his instrumental role in forming the Department of Mathematical Sciences. He was the chairman of the Committee on Applied Mathematics & Systems Research 1965-1969. In this role, in May 1965, Paul wrote a memo, which included the proposal, "That a Department of Applied Mathematical Sciences be established." As a result, the Department of Mathematical Sciences began operations July 1, 1968. The Department of Computer Science, which opened in the fall of 1985, grew out of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, as did the Department of Statistics, which was formed in 1987. In the fall of 1992, the Department of Mathematical Sciences was renamed Computational and Applied Mathematics Department to better reflect its mission.
At Rice, Paul has taught many undergraduate and graduate students and touched their lives. However, Paul's teaching extended far beyond the hedges. For example, when I was an undergraduate student in Germany in the mid 1980s, Paul's book "Probability for Applications" was on reserve for one of my courses. When I visited China in 2010, I found a translation of the same book on the shelves in bookstores. Through his books, Paul continues to teach hundreds of students world-wide.
In 1991, the Paul Pfeiffer Instructorship Fund was created to support postdoctoral instructors in the Departments of Computational and Applied Mathematics and Statistics.
Even after his retirement in 1998, Paul remained a fixture on campus. He participated in the daily life of the CAAM department until he and his wife moved to Austin earlier his year, and until a few years ago he could be seen daily in the gym.
Paul Pfeiffer is survived by his wife Ruth of 69 years, and four children.
Memorial Services will be held on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. at the
Bellaire United Methodist Church
4417 Bellaire Boulevard
Bellaire, TX 77401
In lieu of flowers, the family would like donations to be made to the Paul Pfeiffer Instructorship Fund (make checks payable to Rice University, designated to the "Paul Pfeiffer Instructorship Fund", and send to the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics, c/o "Paul Pfeiffer Instructorship Fund", Rice University, 6100 Main St. - MS 134, Houston, TX 77005-1892).
Paul was a beloved colleague, mentor, teacher, and friend. We will miss him greatly.
Chair, Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics