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James G. Wendel
LSA Minutes


Professor Emeritus of Mathematics James G. Wendel, 83, died of complications from cancer in January, 2006, in Portland, Oregon. He was born in Portland on April 18, 1922, where he lived until graduating from Reed College in 1943. His collegiate years were interrupted by World War II, an effort to which he contributed through his work on defense-related projects, including a stint in Linus Pauling's laboratory. Following completion of his Ph.D. in mathematics at California Technical University in 1948, Professor Wendel had academic appointments at Yale and Louisiana State University, prior to moving to Ann Arbor in 1955 to join the faculty of the University of Michigan Department of Mathematics. He was named professor in 1961, and retired in 1987.

During his tenure at Michigan, Professor Wendel served as Associate Chairman for a total of eleven years, was a member of SACUA and was its Vice-Chairman in 1966-67. His research was in the area of probability, and he was well-known as a brilliant teacher and for his great breadth of knowledge. Professor Wendel was an inveterate problem solver, who loved the challenge and was often called to set problems for collegiate competitions. A popular lecturer, he received many invitations from abroad, and was a visiting professor in Denmark, England, Australia, and Israel. Following his retirement, Professor Wendel moved to Palo Alto, CA, where he stayed until 2000, at which point he returned to his original home of Portland.

Jim Wendel was a man of great intellect, possessing not only a life-long love of mathematics, but an impressive depth and breadth of understanding of history, science, art, literature, culture, language, and music. He had an insatiable curiosity, and his many interests seemed to be matched by an equal diversity of talents. Professor Wendel loved to travel and was moved deeply by music, the former reflected in his interest in linguistics and in learning foreign languages, and the latter expressed most fully through his playing of the accordion and piano. He also was fond of his after-work martini.

Professor Wendel was preceded in death by his younger brother, Thomas, in 2004 and his wife of 56 years, June (nee Herzog), in 2000. He is survived by his sister, and by six children and 12 grandchildren