Wolmer Vasconcelos

We are deeply saddened to share with the community the news of the passing of Wolmer Vasconcelos, at the age of 84.  Here are two news articles about his life, both in Portuguese: 1 2

Vasconcelos was born in Pernambuco, Brasil. He got his PhD in 1966, at the University of Chicago, under Irving Kaplansky. Aron Simis writes (in Portuguese) that “his thesis was an alternative, simpler proof of Serre’s homological characterization of local rings. He started his career at Cornell, and then moved to Rutgers. He wrote more than 120 research papers, and also several books that are well regarded and cited in the commutative algebra community. This community loses one of its most celebrated and beloved members.”

Jack Eagon (1932–2021)

We are deeply saddened to share with the community the news of the passing of Jack Eagon. Below is a message from his children.

“My brothers Lenny, Chris, and I would like to share the sad news that our dad, Prof. Jack Eagon, passed away on May 20, 2021. After our mother died three years ago, dad was heartbroken, but we were all impressed with how well he kept things together, as he continued to live independently in Florida. Our father traveled quite a bit to visit family and to work on a math research project at Duke. He did develop a heart problem that gradually affected his ability to walk and so a year and a half ago, he underwent surgery at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, there were numerous complications and hurdles that ensued. He overcame many of these problems with remarkable resilience and maintained his intellect and sense of humor throughout his effort to recover. His ability to communicate verbally and via email and text were limited and with the pandemic restrictions on visitation, it was very challenging for him to keep people up to date on his progress. Due to covid, family visits were strictly limited for over seven months to waving through a window and communicating using an intercom system. At least he could hear our voices, and we kept him up to date on his emails and world events, including the results of the 2020 election. He did have some very happy moments, including the birth of his second great grandchild at the same hospital where he was a patient and celebrating his 89th birthday on Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) three weeks ago. In the end, he was comfortable and family were at his side when he passed. Now he is at peace with our mom, his beloved Diana.

As you know, Jack Eagon was a very social guy. He loved human interaction and very much appreciated the love and friendship you shared with him during his life. Please feel free to share with us a memory or two that you have of our father. We include a link to the Bopp Chapel website obituary for him. We are planning to have a life celebration later this fall near the University of Minnesota, hopefully in conjunction with the school’s annual emeritus faculty luncheon. We will also hold a memorial service in early November for dad near his home at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Venice, Florida. We will follow-up when dates are known, with safety for all our primary concern. Any thoughts you wish to share would be very appreciated by us, as we remember the life of this wonderful man. You may leave memories or photos on our dad’s webpage at the Bopp Chapel site below.

Bopp Chapel Website: https://www.boppchapel.com/obituaries/John-Jack-A-Eagon?obId=21169908#/obituaryInfo

Sincerely,
Mark, Chris, and Lenny Eagon”

E. Graham Evans (1942–2021)

We are deeply saddened to tell the community about the passing of E. Graham Evans on Saturday, March 20th, at the age of 78.

Below are notes we received from David Eisenbud and Phillip Griffith.

 

The following is a note we received from David Eisenbud:

“I was deeply sad to hear of Graham Evans’ death on March 20th, and I have been thinking about him. I want to share some memories:

Graham was one of my closest friends in grad school. He and Kaye were already married in graduate school — I think they had been childhood sweethearts — and I remember being very impressed by their snug little apartment.

Graham was a student of Kaplansky and I also followed all of Kap’s marvelous lectures. We both developed a fascination with free resolutions from this exposure. Graham also wrote the notes for Richard Swan’s course in K-theory — I enjoyed learning the basics from these notes somewhat later.

Graham took a Postdoc at MIT and I followed to Brandeis, nearby. There we continued our friendship and collaborated on basic elements (arising from Swan’s work) and on set-theoretic complete intersections — the latter resulting in the paper for which (I believe) I was given tenure at Brandeis.

Graham went on to a career at UIUC, while I stayed at Brandeis, but we continued many interactions and parallels. For example, Graham’s undergraduate student Mike Stillman wrote an early program to compute syzygies, while Buchsbaum and I employed an undergraduate, Ray Zibman, for the same purpose (none of us knew about Groebner bases, so the programs were only heuristic; Schreyer’s algorithm and the work of Bayer and Stillman on Macaulay lay, unsuspected, in the future.) Graham and I both spent the year 1975-76 at the I.H.E.S, outside of Paris, supported by Sloan Fellowships. Graham was already obsessed with (but making no progress on) the “Syzygy Problem”–the conjecture that a non-free n-th syzygy of finite projective dimension must have rank at least n. It took a long time, but his persistence paid off: he and his Urbana colleague Phillip Griffith published their proof in the Annals of Math in 1981. Their London Math Society book, published a few years later has a nice exposition of the whole area. The paper continues to be influential: it already has 65 citations, 11 new ones in papers appearing in the last 5 years alone.

At Urbana Graham and Kaye continued to nurture many students, one of whom, Hara Charalambous, came to me as a Postdoc and is now Chair of mathematics in Thessaloniki. In addition to his PhD students, whom you can find at the math genealogy site, there was a succession of undergraduates who enjoyed the welcoming warmth of that household, including Mike Stillman and, much more recently, Emily Riehl. I believe that Kaye, an accomplished seamstress, even sewed wedding dresses for some of them! Graham was an excellent and enthusiastic cook—for example he made the first and only “Christmas Goose” that I ever tasted. He was active in teaching non-mathematicians at Urbana, too: he once told me about a course he gave regularly, in which, on the first day he would say: “Don’t be afraid! Now reach out and touch the computer.” I can hear him saying it… Soon after Graham retired from UIUC, he developed Parkinson’s disease, and Kaye also suffered a series of medical troubles. Fortunately they had the support of Carl, one of their two sons, who remained in Urbana, involved with the University. For quite a while, Graham and Kaye made frequent pilgrimages to the West coast where their other child, Michael, is a video game developer. They would often stop by in Berkeley on these trips, so we could renew our friendship. Kaye died about a year ago. I had hoped to visit in Urbana once more, too — it might have happened, but for the pandemic.”

 

Also, a message from Phillip Griffith:

“Graham was delivered into the world on September 8, 1942 – not by his father an obstetrician/gynecologist by trade. His father saved that delivery for Kay Esser – Graham’s wife to be. Serendipity at work!

Graham graduated from Aurora High School (Illinois) in 1960 – the year his High School Debate Team won the National Championship.

After graduating Dartmouth in 1964 Graham began his graduate studies at University of Chicago. It was at this time that Graham, David Eisenbud and I began exchanging ideas – at afternoon tea.

Graham received his Ph.D. degree under the direction of Irving Kaplansky in 1969. For many years he wore his cap and gown to teach on Hilbert’s Birthday.

After a year at UCLA, Graham began a two-year position as post doc at MIT. And it is here where I “blew it” in my retirement speech for Graham – stating, “Graham received a Benjamin Moore Postdoctoral Fellowship” instead of C.L.E. Moore Fellowship. The next day Graham informed me, “Phil, Benjamin Moore refers to paint.” Graham and David Eisenbud produced 5 excellent articles during this period.

After taking a position at Illinois, Graham introduced me to a problem he and Winfried Bruns referred to as “The Syzygy Problem”, a question concerning minimal ranks of syzygy modules of finite projective dimension. After a few years making little or no progress, our ideas meshed to solve the problem in Spring 1980. The mix: a crude version of what is now known to be the Improved New Intersection Theorem that produced the desired grade inequality of order ideals of minimal generators. Our paper was published in Annals of Mathematics (1981).

In 1985 Graham and I published a monograph, SYZYGIES (LMS Lecture Notes 106) that discussed matters in more depth. In particular, the connection to the Improved New Intersection Theorem was made more precise.

In 2000 and 2001 Graham received two prestigious U of I mentoring awards, and was featured in video with undergraduate Chris Francisco (now Oklahoma State U) at halftime of a U of I basketball game.

In early 2003 Graham announced he would retire in Spring 2004. I asked a librarian from the Math Library to locate another copy of our monograph. I planned to have a special cover designed for presentation to Graham at the Department Retirement celebration. With the help of BookFinders.com the librarian provided a phone number for a bookstore in Ohio. When I called, they had only one copy left – and that one was sold. I found a bookstore in Nevada that listed their only copy at $296. (Had SYZYGIES found its way into rare books?) I tried their “used books” site and found the same copy. With additional help I found a copy through Amazon with a price tag of $512. This exercise gave new meaning to “Appreciation of Theorems.” The original price had been $35. My quest was never realized – except in story form. Eventually our monograph was reprinted – all mistakes in tack – and the price dropped.

Chef Graham’s culinary excellence was well known. Once at a dinner party he announced, “the chocolate souffle collapsed!” All was eaten!

One lasting memory will never fade. And that is Kay and Graham and Judy and I at a famous restaurant in Napa Valley toasting to what our collaboration had brought.

Good journey my friend.”

Job announcements

Some recent job postings that may be of interest:

  • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Syracuse University, and Oklahoma State University all have postdoc positions starting in Fall 2021. More information in the links above.
  • The University of Sheffield is advertising a permanent position in Algebra, Geometry and Topology, including interactions with Mathematical Physics. The appointment will be made at either Senior Lecturer or Chair level (roughly equivalent to Associate Professor or Professor) according to the experience of the successful candidate. More information here.