Emeritus Faculty Association news September 2011
Friday September 9th, usual time and place 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. The speaker will be Alan Inkles, Director of the Staller Center. Partly at the urging of members Mel Simpson and David Smith, the Staller center will in the forthcoming academic year be adding to the Met opera broadcast series(see bio), a similar HD series of dramas from the National Theatre in London.
Bio: Alan Inkles has been the Director of Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University for the past fourteen years and the Founder/ Director of The Stony Brook Film Festival for the past sixteen. During his tenure at Staller, he founded and created the award-winning and long-running International Theatre Festival, introducing dozens of international theatre troupes to America and produced many first American tours for these Internationally renowned companies. In connection with this Alan and his staff have presented dozens of premiere films and have brought out such notable guests as Rod Steiger, Cliff Robertson, Christopher Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Eli Wallach, Patricia Neal, Mary Stuart Masterson, Jena Malone, Tilda Swinton, Alan Alda and Dana Delany. The 2009 festival had over 15,000 attendees and received wide national press coverage and high accolades for film programming and organization. Four premiere films from the 2009 festival were picked up for distribution through playing Stony Brook; two are currently in release and two others will open up theatrically later this year.
He is credited with "putting Staller Center on the map" with the broadening of the programming by introducing family programming, popular/ cultural entertainment and for strengthening the classics in music, dance, theatre and fine art with over 450 live and film programs presented and produced annually in the five theatres and 5,000 square foot art gallery. Some of the more recent achievements have been bringing the Live From The Met Opera Broadcast Series to Stony Brook (the first University performing arts center to host this series) and creating and implementing "First On Us" - another first of its kind program that provides a free ticket to any show to all incoming Stony Brook Freshman each year.
Bernard Greenhouse, died May 13 at his home on Cape Cod at the age of 95. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/arts/music/bernard-greenhouse-cellist-dies-at-95.html?scp=1&sq=obituary:%20Bernard%20Greenhouse&st=cse
Florence Boroson: Died May 20, at the age of 83. for obituary, click here
John Toll: Died July 15 in Betheda, MD, at the age of 87, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/nyregion/john-s-toll-dies-at-87-led-stony-brook-university.html?scp=1&sq=obituary:%20John%20S%20Toll&st=cse
Rueben Weltsch: Died July 19 at the age of 90. for obituary, click here
John Marburger: Died July 29 at the age of 70, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/30/us/30marburger.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=obituary:%20Marburger&st=cse
Michael Marx: Died August 2 at the age of 61. See email sent to the university community by acting provost Squires on August 4.
The annual emeritus faculty luncheon held on May 20 was treated to the reminiscences of newly appointed part-time professor of mathematics James H. Simons. For space reasons the details of the introduction by chair Al Carlson and some of the facts mentioned by Jim are omitted here since they were covered at length in the previous issue (click on news archive).
So the story starts while Jim was working in the Institute for Defense Analyses writing his first prize-winning work on multidimensional surfaces, and his boss's boss, Gen Maxwell Taylor, wrote an article in the NY Times magazine on what a great idea the Vietnam war was and how the US was going to win it any minute. Jim, being young (29), wrote a response. After which he was summoned into the office of his boss, who, after placing a quick phone call to the general, announced that Jim was fired. And so it was that Jim, needing work, took up the position of chair of mathematics at Stony Brook, which happened to be on offer at that instant. While creating the Chern-Simons invariants and building up the department he made time to found the Stony Brook Anti-War Fund to support anti-war candidates. His idea was to sign up faculty for 1% of their salary. (Comment: in retrospect, this is somewhat more than the giving of most current billionaires).
At this time, he took the money accrued from an old investment and used it for a little currency trading. It was after this met with some success and following some life crises, that in 1978 Jim decided to resign from the University and take the plunge into founding a private investment firm. The innovation was the application of mathematical models coupled to automated rapid placing of trades. One thing Jim didn't mention was the day when he woke up to discover to his horror that he was the owner of practically the entire market of potato futures! But eventually they got the bugs (and the potatoes) out of it, the company grew into what is now Renaissance Technologies employing some 300 people, and computerized trading has become the norm.
Jim restarted his relationship to the university when he was invited to be a member of the Stony Brook Foundation (eventually becoming its chair). His first initiative was the (still continuing) SBU summer program for gifted high school students. In contrast to his earlier SBU years it was now the undergraduates who were disadvantaged. Together with then Provost Jerry Schubel he worked on an initiative to improve the undergraduate experience.
At this time Brookhaven National Laboratories experienced its notorious tritium leak and Senator d'Amato threatened to close it down. Jim contributed to getting d'Amato replaced by Charles Schumer and proposed to president Kenny that Stony Brook take over control of BNL in a new consortium in conjunction with some of the old participants such as Harvard, MIT, Yale, and Princeton.
Having officially retired from Renaissance 18 months ago (but continuing as non-executive chair) Jim is now back to his first love. Coming in once per week, he has succeeded in getting two new mathematics papers published. (Note to emeritus: one way to get an office is to donate 60 million dollars for the new building which houses it).
In response to questions Jim said that the although the university had a spurt of growth and reputation in the early days it had lost luster particularly in the last 10 years. This was probably due both to the funding cuts and a lack of leadership, particularly in clinical research. As chair of the recent search committee he focussed on a new president with some association to medical sciences. He thinks that, coming in to a brutal situation, Sam Stanley has made a great start. And now with a prestigious new medical dean in place, and perhaps a "little jump start", the university can now resume its early rate of growth. Also with the new governor, SBU will get the tuition flexibility it needs and be able to use the tuition funds (as opposed to last year when the legislature corralled them for general state purposes). This will not limit access however because SBU has one of the lowest tuition costs of any state college, and one third of tuition funds will be set aside for scholarships. "Access to mediocrity is no favor"
People our age always tend to think things are worse than in their youth, but sometimes Jim said, "things really are worse". While our students are OK at the 4th grade, by the time they reach 12th grade they are at the bottom internationally. 10 years ago 80% of Indian IIT graduates came to the US, now it is 10%. He hopes his Math for America program would be copied nationally and that good teachers should be given the remuneration and the respect they deserve.
Charles Koch for the promotion and tenure committee?
Jim Simons' generosity to SBU, approaching $100 million and counting, can be compared to philanthropists elsewhere. In particular, when conservative businessman Charles G. Koch pledged just $1.5 million to the economics department at Florida State, the contract (accepted by the university) specified that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decide which candidates should be considered. His foundation can also withdraw its funding if it is not happy with the faculty's choices or if the hires do not meet "objectives" set by Koch during annual evaluations.