LITTLE BY LITTLE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICS NEWSLETTER
VOLUME 10, ISSUE 2, SPRING 1997
Professor Kermit Sigmon: In
M mIalrzicam
"Daisy, daisy
give me your answer true.
I'm half crazy
All for the love of you.
It won't be a stylish marriage.
I can't afford a carriage.
But you look sweet, upon the seat,
Of a bicycle built for two."
With this chorus, a large audience of University of
Florida faculty, citizens from Gainesville with an interest
in bicycling and urban transportation planning (includ
ing MayorComissioner Ed Jennings, Sr.), and relatives
and family of Dr. Kermit Sigmon (many from North Car
olina) joined Linda Crider in singing the above chorus
to "Cycles in the Sand" at a Celebration of the Life of
Kermit Sigmon (1936 1997), held at the United Church
of Gainesville on a cold Sunday afternoon, January 19,
1997. The attendance in the chapel reflected not only
Kermit's many years of sustained, dedicated service for
the University of Florida during 1963 1997, but also his
many years of civic involvement in Gainesville affairs.
Kermit's work in civic affairs over the years had been at
such a significant level, that the Gainesville City Com
mission had named August 5, 1985 as Kermit Sigmon
Day. Kermit served for 20 years on the citizens advisory
committee to the Metropolitan Transportation Planning
Organization of Gainesville/Alachua County, and Marlie
Sanderson, Director of Transportation Planning for that
body has commented in an article in the Gainesville Sun
on January 15, 1997, that "Sigmon brought his consid
erable knowledge of applied mathematics and computer
modeling to the minutae of the transportation process.
Sigmon's combination of politeness and good humor, even
during heated discussions, combined with analytical abil
ities and thorough research, swayed many a skeptical of
ficial." On February 10, 1997, there was a Memorial Tree
Planting at the Matheson Historical Society to honor Dr.
Sigmon along with two byclists who were tragically killed
in early January while enroute to St. Augustine from
Gainesville.
Dr. Kermit Sigmon was a dedicated teacher and
scholar, who served on the faculty of the Department of
Mathematics since 1966. His research spanned two dis
tinct areas of mathematics; as he described them himself,
cont. on page 2
Notes from the chair
by Joseph Glover
We dedicate this issue of Little by Little to the mem
ory of Kermit Sigmon, whose presence was so woven into
the fabric of the department that his work continues to
touch the lives of undergraduate and graduate students,
staff and faculty. We honor his memory not only for his
service to UF and the state, but also for his enthusiasm
and his unique personality. We will miss him.
I asked a committee to consider how best to honor
Kermit's memory. Bruce Edwards, Jean Larson, Neil
White, Krishna Alladi, Rick Smith and Paul Ehrlich rec
ommended two things. The Department will pursue the
possibility of having a tree planted near Little Hall and
dedicated to Kermit. In recognition of his dedication
to undergraduate teaching and the mathematics major,
the committee also recommended that a "Kermit Sigmon
Award" be made to an undergraduate each year. The
award will consist of a certificate and a cash prize. Little
by Little readers who would like to donate to help fund
this award are asked to fill out the enclosed donation
form, indicating that your funds should go to the General
Gift FundKermit Sigmon Award.
It is again a pleasure to warmly thank all of those
who contributed to the support of our educational activ
ities in the department. Nonanonymous donations re
ceived at the U.F. Foundation during January March,
1997 include Mr. James Dennis Baker, Mr. David A.
Beauchamp, Dr. Beverly Brechner, Mr. Tak K. Che
ung, Dr. Jennifer Davidson, and Ms. Talia Elkin.
Professor Kermit Sigmon: In
Memoriam cont.
first algebraic topology and topological algebra, and later,
numerical analysis, numerical linear algebra, parallel
computing. Experts in these areas comment on their
association with Kermit in the following article, "Dr. Ker
mit Sigmon Remembered." Kermit was a demanding but
popular teacher at Florida. He received a College of Arts
and Sciences Teaching Award in the spring of 1995 and
the Universitywide Teaching Incentive Program Award
in December of 1966. As part of his teaching, Kermit had
authored the well known MATLAB Primer, which was
used across the whole world.
I came to the University of Florida in the fall of
1987 from the University of MissouriColumbia, as the
senior appointee in differential geometry, during the first
year of a proposed 5 year expansion plan for the depart
ment. During my first year, I served on the Departmental
Search and Screen Committee along with Kermit, and as
a result of administrative changes, the committee found
itself playing a more active role than usual in the recruit
ment process. I thus came to be very familiar with the
members of this committee, since we spent so much time
together: throughout I was impressed with the sincere
integrity Kermit always displayed in seeking to do what
was right for the development of the department as he be
lieved it ought to grow. Also, I experienced first hand how
that Sigmon combination of politeness and good humor
mentioned above by Marlie Sanderson served to defuse
many potentially acrimonious situations. Later, when I
was working on the Ehrlich/Moore manuscript on the
history of the department, I had many conversations
with Kermit as he recalled A. D. Wallace, John Maxfield
and others. I admired Kermit's willingness to step into
the office of Undergraduate Coordinator during the fall
semester of 1994 after Charles Nelson's retirement, and
I knew that Kermit would bring the same energy level,
integrity, and attention to detail to that job which he had
brought to so many other service assignments during his
30 years in the professorial ranks here. (An example of
his concrete concerns and attention to detail and keen
desire to get things functioning well unfolded before my
eyes as the entire department was in the process of mov
ing from Walker Hall to Little Hall during 1995. One day
Kermit showed me a sketch of a typical classroom and
asked me about his plan to have new blackboards placed
on the longer wall of the classroom in addition to the ex
isting boards along the shorter wall, farthest away from
the outer door. I replied that I found that to be an excel
lent idea. As I was walking through the corridors of Little
this past fall, which would be Kermit's last semester at
the University, I enjoyed seeing how useful this was in
some of our larger class sections as I observed both faculty
and graduate students teaching in these rooms. Kermit
especially enjoyed the opportunity to do this, as we had
been plagued in the past with many classrooms around
campus, some of which I have taught in myself, which
have extremely skimpy board space, to say the least.)
Kermit entered graduate school here in 1963, the
same year that A. D. Wallace joined the department from
Tulane University. Dr. Sigmon was a member of the A. D.
Wallace research group and wrote a thesis on Topological
Means, receiving the Ph.D. in August, 1966. He dedicated
his dissertation to his wife Ruth and daughter Kristina
and included acknowledgements which read
"The author wishes to express his gratitude to Pro
fessor A. D. Wallace, Chairman of his supervisory com
mittee, for his continued interest and efforts on behalf of
the author in preparing him for a career in mathemat
ics. The help of others who have served on the author's
supervisory committee, Professors A. R. Bednarek, J. M.
Day, J. Kronsbein and F. M. Sioson, is appreciated and
especially that of Professor Bednarek who provided the
forum which stimulated the author's interest in topology
and that of Professor Day whose expressions of confidence
and willing ear were invaluable."
The Biographical Sketch in Kermit's dissertation re
veals that
"Kermit Neal Sigmon was born April 18, 1936 in Lin
coln County, North Carolina. In May, 1954, he was grad
uated from Rock Springs High School in Denver, North
Carolina. In May, 1958, he received the degree of Bache
lor of Arts from Appalachian State Teachers College and
in August, 1959, he received the degree of Master of Ed
ucation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill. From 1959 until 1963 he taught mathematics in
the high schools of Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1963,
he enrolled in the Graduate School of the University of
Florida where until the present time he has served as
a part time instructor in the Department of Mathemat
ics while pursuing work toward the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy.
Kermit Neil Sigmon is married to the former Ruth
Lois Tucker and is the father of one child. He is a mem
ber of the Mathematical Association of America and the
American Mathematical Society."
In connection with my historical writing, Kermit de
lighted in recalling how there were "hyphenated" Belk
stores near both Ruth's girlhood home and his boyhood
farm, a BelkSchrum store in Lincolntown and a Belk
Tyler store near where Ruth grew up. Kermit recalled
being taken to the much larger Belk store in Charlotte
for major clothes shopping. One summer, my wife and
I had visited the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina,
and when we discussed this with Kermit, he recalled
how in past times the Biltmore estate had had a dairy
and Biltmore milk and icecream could be purchased in
Lincolntown. Another time in 1994 when we were dis
cussing Kermit's teaching of the large lecture calculus
employing computer technology in preparing and show
ing transparencies, Kermit recalled how greatly things
had changed since his college days at Appalachian State
Teachers College, where he recalled being taught how to
use a slide rule.
Kermit had the following comments for me concern
ing his graduate student days, which I have taken from
the Ehrlich/Moore history of the department:
"Professor [Alexander Doniphan] Wallace sparked
more of a research climate in the department. He made
sure that the department had a full program of semi
nars and colloquia. He instituted a Journals Seminar for
the graduate students during which they had to report
on research articles published in the journals. Professor
Wallace also brought in several researchers in topological
semigroups, like Professor David Foulis and apparently
Professor F. M. Sioson. During the time I was in grad
uate school, I recall seminars on orthomodular lattices
conducted by Professor Foulis for graduate students and
some faculty. Professor Wallace conducted a seminar on
topological semigroups and cohomology. The A. D. Wal
lace seminar met on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Professor
Maxfield was a commanding figure with a handle bar
mustache, standing 6' 6". He had a collection of vintage
Rolls Royces and also a stretched Checker limo. I recall
driving to an American Mathematical Society meeting
in Houston, stopping overnight in New Orleans, in the
Checker limosine with Dr. Maxfield and a group of gradu
ate students. In 1967, Professor Maxfield left Gainesville
to become Chairman at Kansas State. He took several
faculty members and a group of graduate students with
him. The question arose as to how all of these vintage
cars were to be transported to Kansas. A graduate stu
dent was charged with driving one of these vehicles, but
it overheated and broke down as near as Lake City, and
may have had to finish the trip being transported on a
truck."
During the course of my historical work, I circulated
by email to the faculty some news items from the Daily
Alligators of the early 60's discussing in very colorful
terms the dilapidated conditions which new Chairman
John Maxfield had encountered on campus after his ar
rival in 1960. Kermit had the following email response
to these items:
"Paul,
I didn't arrive in Gainesville until August 1963, so I
can only comment on things that I recall from that date
forward. Here are a few comments:
You mention the renovation of Walker Hall at one
point. This renovation occurred during AY 1972 73. The
department moved to Building E during the summer of
72 and back into the extensively renovated Walker Hall
in the summer of 1973. Building E was the 'barracks'
(actually in the shape of the letter E !) sitting just north
of the current Little Hall, where there is now a parking
lot. Building E burned down (accidentally ???) within a
couple of years of 1973.
During my 3 years as a doctoral graduate student
(63 66), I was actually an 'Interim Instructor', a line
item position, as mentioned by Maxfield (rather than a
TA.)
The graduate student 'alcove' mentioned was actu
ally a rather large room on the west end of the 3rd floor
containing desks packed in. In the prerenovated Walker
Hall it sat where the current offices of Rao, Block, Cenzer,
PopStojanovic, Bao, and men's toilet now sit. My desk
was in this room during my first year here.
Note that then grad student Arnold Insel (not In
shel), quoted in the Alligator article, is one of the authors
of the Friedberg/Insel/Spence Linear Algebra text used
by some in MAS 4105.
The prerenovation classrooms in Walker were un
airconditioned with huge, noisy exhaust fans.
Benton Hall was condemned sometime in the 60s
because of the danger of collapsing. The department once
held its regular colloquim in a Benton auditorium. Grin
ter Hall replaced it, of course.
When Walker Hall was renovated, those slate class
room blackboards mentioned in the 1960 article about the
Walker Hall classrooms were preserved and used for the
blackboards in the current faculty offices in Walker Hall.
These are a few thoughts spurred by the article.
Kermit
Almost thirty years after the fact, both Charles Nel
son and Kermit recalled vividly the beginning of the
semester meeting of the faculty and graduate students
that was held on a Sunday afternoon in a room in the
Architecture Building, just before classes began the fol
lowing Monday. Professor Maxfield would have had the
student enrollment figures that previous Friday and Sat
urday, and by Sunday would have worked out the teach
ing schedule. At this Sunday afternoon meeting, Max
field handed every faculty member, interim instructor,
and teaching assistant a 3" x 5" index card containing
their teaching assignment for the semester. In those
days, Nelson recalled, one did not complain to the Chair
or Associate Chair about teaching assignments, but just
do informal swaps. Also, since everybody was assem
bled together in one place, the Seminar Schedule for the
semester would also be drawn up at this same time. Ker
mit recalled the following phrase describing Maxfield's
move to Kansas State "it was a pull, and not a push"
 which Maxfield himself confirmed to me. After Dean
Maxfield sent me some copies of newspaper clippings
from his time in Gainesville, I found one which confirmed
that Maxfield had indeed been Director of the Computer
Center. For this photograph showed President J. Wayne
Reitz, Dr. Maxfield and Floyd Bowen of Lakeland, a
member of the Florida State Chamber of Commerce, ob
serving the new IBM 709 which had recently been in
stalled. After I showed this photograph to Kermit, he re
called taking Numerical Analysis during 1963 1964 with
Professor Ralph Selfridge, whom Maxfield had brought to
Florida from the China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Sta
tion at the rank of Associate Professor during the 1961
 1962 academic year. Kermit recalled having to bicycle
from Walker Hall all the way to what is now called the
Wallace Building in the agricultural complex near Fifield
Hall on the other side of Lake Alice in order to have the
Fortran programs which were assigned in the Numerical
Analysis Course run on a mainframe computer.
It is interesting to me that in the mobile 1960's, Pro
fessors Wayman Strother and David Foulis, two of the
faculty apart from A. D. Wallace which so inspired the
graduate student Sigmon, were just at Florida for a rel
atively brief period, less than five years. Then Strother
went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst as
outside chairman, and Foulis joined him shortly there
after. But this move led to Kermit's spending the sum
mer of 1966 as a Visiting Assistant Professor at U. Mass
at Strother's invitation. During the time period up until
1980, Kermit continued his research on topological semi
groups and functional equations. He has described his
research interests during this time period as algebraic
topology and topological algebra. One of his papers from
this period is titled A strong homotopy axiom for Alexan
der cohomology, Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. 31 (1972), pp.
271 275. During 1972 1973, Kermit, Ruth and their
daughter enjoyed a sabbatical period Kermit spent in
Germany, while serving as a Guest Professor in Munich
and Hannover. Kermit has told me that this experience
was especially meaningful to him because of his German
ancestry. (I recall Kermit's telling me that the German
name of his ancestors had been "Siegmund".) Kermit
lectured at Liege, Hamburg, Clausthal, Technische Uni
versitat Munchen, and at the national meeting of the
German mathematical society. During this time, Ker
mit purchased an interesting biography of R. L. Moore,
which contains a list of Moore's mathematical descen
dants; Kermit was proud to be on this list as a mathe
matical greatgrandson, since A. D. Wallace had been a
student of Moore's student G.T. Whyburn. Kermit was
an Associate Editor of the journal Aequationes Mathe
maticae during the time period 1974 1980. On the local
scene, during the 1970's Kermit was active in working
with doctoral students Desmond Robbie, Hungtsaw
Hu, Joann Barbee and a Masters student Vladimir
Scheffer. In the service area during 1974 1979, Sig
mon developed and stabilized the management system
for large lecture calculus and precalculus. In the curric
ular developmental areas, Kermit wrote a widely used
MATLAB Primer to introduce students to the use of the
MATLAB software, and also wrote the curricular mate
rials for our current course MAS 3300: Numbers and
Polynomials, which is designed to help mathematics ma
jors make the transition from techniques courses to more
conceptual courses.
As the 1980's approached, Kermit faced a difficult
problem in his research life; he told me that activity in
his research area was gradually coming to a halt as the
number of practitioners was dwindling rapidly. Kermit
confronted this difficulty with his characteristic determi
nation and ener,: he revamped his research interests
into the areas of numerical analysis, numerical linear al
gebra, and parallel computing. This reorientation was
aided by a visit to North Carolina State University and
Professor Robert Plemmons during the academic year
1985 1986 and summer work at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory during the summers of 1987, 1988, and 1989.
At Oak Ridge, Sigmon worked with Dr. Charles Romine,
and their work resulted in the publication of an article
Reducing inner product computation in the parallel one
sided Jacobi algorithm in the Proceedings of the Fifth
Memory Computing Conference. In his collaboration
with Romine, Kermit was able to logon to the super
computer at Oak Ridge from his desktop workstation in
Walker Hall; what a far cry from learning to use a slide
rule as a young man in Boone, North Carolina! Kermit's
work in his new research area led to international recog
nition; he was invited to participate in several House
holder Symposia as well as other international scientific
meetings and he served as an Associate Editor of the
S.I.A.M. Journal on Matrix Analysis and Applications
since 1989.
As I wrote above, Kermit was a demanding but pop
ular teacher at Florida. I had the occasion to attend a
seminar presentation of Kermit's and also to attend a
meeting of his graduate course in Numerical Linear Al
gebra. His joy and enthusiasm in teaching was evident in
both presentations. As I walked in the area near Walker
Hall and Little Hall, I could often see Kermit sitting down
with several graduate or undergraduate students after
his classes were over, genially and enthusiastically giv
ing them further instruction and nourishment. In curric
ular matters, Sigmon was one of the leaders in an NSF
sponsored ATLAST Project, headed by Steven Leon, with
the purpose of training university and college instructors
in the use of computers and MATLAB in the teaching of
linear algebra.
During 1992 1995, Kermit served as "presenter" of
three of these workshops. One of these sessions saw life
come back in a circle, as Professor Jane Maxwell Day was
also one of the ATLAST workshop "presenters." Jane and
Kermit had been fellow students and part of the A. D.
Wallace topological algebra research group at the Uni
versity of Florida during the 60's, and found themselves
working together again in the 90's, exploring how to teach
linear algebra more ettectir el?.
Dr. Kermit Sigmon Remembered
by Paul Ehrlich
Professor Joseph Glover, the Chair of the Mathemat
ics Department under whom Kermit served as Associate
Chair for Undergraduate Studies, had the following com
ments about Kermit in a memorial article published in
the College of Arts and Sciences Newsletter in February,
1997:
"Joe Glover, chair of the mathematics department,
remembers how Sigmon also enjoyed his role as advi
sor/counselor to undergraduates.
'Kermit was fond of saying that even though he often
had to say 'no' to students, he had developed a knack
for saying it so they didn't leave his office disgruntled,'
he said. 'He spent considerable time with each student
discussing goals and aspirations, and each felt the full
glow of his attention during visits.'
Glover believes it wasn't just the students that ben
efited from his work, but the entire Gainesville commu
nity.
'Florida benefited from his organizational expertise
in developing nationally acclaimed bicyling and trans
portation policy,' he said. 'He applied the same expertise
to refine and systematize the undergraduate programs in
mathematics. All members of the department will miss
his talents, his sense of humor and his presence. '
A long time faculty member of the Mathematics De
partment, Professor Neil White, has written me:
"Dear Paul, Here's a recollection about Kermit which
might be appropriate to share.
Kermit and Ruth had Mary and me over to their
house one evening and were showing us pictures of their
daughter's wedding, which had taken place in North Car
olina the previous summer. Suddenly I recognized one of
the attendees. "What was one of my calculus students
doing at this wedding?" "Well," said Kermit, "I guess the
jig is up." It turns out this student, Jennifer Lutz, was his
niece, who was attending UF for a year. Kermit, as un
dergraduate coordinator, had placed her in my calculus
section, but, typical of Kermit, he didn't want his niece
to gain an unfair advantage from his friendship with me,
so he and his niece had agreed to keep their kinship a
secret from me.
Neil
A second long time faculty member, Professor Bev
erly Brechner, had the following thoughts about her as
sociations with Kermit over the years:
"I first met Kermit Sigmon when I came to UF in
1968. Kermit was always an important and influential
member of the department, having been involved in ad
ministrative work, advising, course designing and the
writing of course notes, as well as doing scholarly re
search, all of the time I knew him. His good common
sense, interest in the students' welfare, and excellent
mathematical training, as well as his fine research contri
butions, made him a wonderful faculty member, teacher,
and colleague.
But more importantly, he was a wonderful human
being. The things that were most important to him were
honesty and honor, as a way of life. I remember thinking
on a number of occasions, "Kermit is indeed 'a man for all
seasons'!" My life is richer for having been able to count
Kermit Sigmon among my friends.
Dr. Charles Romine, a Staff Scientist at Oak Ridge
National Laboratories, with whom Kermit collaborated
over several summers while visiting Oak Ridge, had the
following recollections of Kermit:
"Dr. Ehrlich,
I'd be happy to send you a few remembrances about
our all too brief collaboration. During the visits that Ker
mit made to Oak Ridge, he introduced me to the problem
of parallelizing the onesided Jacobi algorithm for com
puting the singular values of a matrix. He had recently
become aware of some of the work of some eminent re
searchers on the computation of the SVD (Pat Eberlein,
Haesun Park, Ahmed Sameh, Frank Luk, Jim Demmel,
K. Veseli6 and V. Hari). Kermit and I devised an ef
fective way of eliminating some of the superfluous in
ner products from the onesided Jacobi algorithm. While
this reduced the total amount of work, the distributed
memory parallel version obtained only a limited benefit
from this reduction, since it also had the effect of creating
a load imbalance across the processors. Kermit devised a
statistical analysis of the behavior of the algorithm that
agreed quite well with the empirical results we obtained
from the Intel PSC/860 at ORNL. While our onesided
Jacobi variant was still more expensive (even in parallel)
than the traditional GolubReinsch SVD algorithm, our
algorithm closed the gap between them somewhat. I have
recently become aware of the development of"outofcore"
versions of standard linear algebra computations, and I
suspect that a variant of the onesided Jacobi algorithm
will maximize data reuse, and perhaps prove competitive
with more traditional methods.
On a personal note, it will come as no surprise to
anyone who knew Kermit that he was a popular visitor to
Oak Ridge. His enthusiasm for his work (and, of course,
his bicycling) made him an engaging colleague. I believe
he was in the middle of his most celebrated work, the
indispensable "Matlab Primer", when I first met him.
His motivation for writing the Matlab Primer was solely
to promote education in the field he had chosen for the
latter part of his career, numerical linear algebra. Early
in our collaboration, I had the honor of being invited by
Kermit to give a talk at the University of Florida. He and
Ruth were charming and gracious hosts during my visit
there, and I will always remember their warm hospitality.
Kermit never spoke disparagingly about administra
tive and committee responsibilities at the University. He
took great delight in helping to undertake the respon
sibility of revamping the computing environment at the
university he loved, frequently describing its future with
great enthusiasm.
I lost touch with Kermit some time ago, but I will
always remember him with great fondness.
Chuck Romine
Professor Karl H. Hofmann, a German expert on
topological semigroups, now at the Technische Univer
sitat Darmstadt, wrote the following to me about his rec
ollections of Kermit:
"Dear Paul,
This is a shock for me, [ed., my informing him by
email of Kermit's passing away] because I did not know
that. Another topological algebraist, Tom Bowman, who
was Paul Mostert's and my joint student, died of cancer
years ago at a young age; and now Kermit, still young by
contemporary standards, fell victim to this disease.
The records which you probably have show that I
followed with interest his research in algebraic topology
and topological algebra. Kermit Sigmon was, in this re
gard a true follower of Alexander Doniphan Wallace who
is the pioneer of this blend of mathematics in the South.
In the thirties, the then novel homology and cohomology
theory had been applied to, say, compact Lie groups by
Heinz Hopf, after Emmy Noether popularized the con
cept that the topological invariants of spaces should not
be numbers (a la Betti) but groups, from which the num
bers derive naturally. Wallace, however, discovered com
pact semigroups as the territory on which cohomology
has basic applications; he made Tulane and Louisana
State University nuclei for this research in the fifties
through the sixties. He also realized that possibly nonas
sociative compact algebraic structures provided impor
tant domains of application for the type of cohomology
that partly bears his name, and that is what made the
University of Florida an important center of topological
algebra in the sixties. AlexanderSpanierWallace co
homology (agreeing on compact spaces with Cech coho
mology) was taught, Texas style, at Tulane (and proba
bly later in Gainesville) through a polished set of lecture
notes in a course known there as AT I (Algebraic Topol
ogy One); generations of algebraic topologists benefitted
from these pedagogical efforts, and I think that Kermit
Sigmon belongs to the large group of mathematicians
who were strongly influenced by this line of mathemat
ical thought. He is in a chain of tradition leading on to
Desmond Robbie, one of Kermit's students who is now
active in Australia in topological algebra.
My records on earlier evaluation letters or on reviews
I wrote on Kermit's work for Mathematical Reviews and
Zentralblatt ffir Mathematik are stashed away at Tulane
or in boxes. So I do not recall Kermit's early biogra
phy in detail. What is prominent in my memory (getting
increasingly shaky on short term information) are the
mathematical features and highlights of Kermit's work
in topological algebra and in topological semigroups, and
on other topological algebras. In this regard, A.D.Wallace
could not have had a better successor. His work on the ho
motopy axiom for ASWcohomology is the best and most
general which is, to my knowledge, in the literature; and
he contributed other pieces of work to the general theory
of ASWcohomology. In the true spirit of Gainesville al
gebraic topology, he contributed much to a certain field
ofnonassociative topological algebra which was initiated
in the fifties by the prominent Swiss algebraic topologist
and category theoretician Benno Eckmann (retired now
but alive and active), namely, to the theory of spaces with
a binary continuous operation emulating say, the finding
of the midpoint of two points of a (compact) convex set
in a topological vector space. This operation is not as
sociative, but commutative and idempotent; one refers
to the binary operations arising in the axiomatic study of
these circumstances as a "mean". His paper in Mathema
tische Zeitschrift in the early seventies (of which Benno
Eckmann was an Editor for many years) on certain idem
potent multiplications on compact connected spaces is a
gem on algebraic topology as applied to (nonassociative)
compact connected topological algebras and it is in some
sense the culmination of his work in this area. Kermit
Sigmon's name is forever attached to the study of compact
topological means.
It is a bit ironic that Kermit's and my paths never
crossed in Germany although he once held a visiting pro
fessorship funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
(DFGthe analog of NSF in Germany) for a whole year
in Germany; but that was long before I came to the Darm
stadt Institute of Technology. He spoke German fluently;
he wrote a paper on geometry with Jiirgen Misfeld in
Hannover who was taken from the midst of an active
mathematical life two years ago by a heart attack (catch
ing a bus, I am told). I understand that Sigmon travelled
to Germany frequently through many years.
Even though his work on topological algebra contin
ued, Sigmon later on changed fields and turned to scien
tific computing. I cannot say much about this line of his
research except express my admiration for his scholarly
breadth and his courage to go into a new mathematical
direction at a later stage in his life. For me Kermit Sig
mon remains remembered as a mathematical researcher
holding up the tradition of algebraic topology in topolog
ical algebra and as one of the most prominent successors
of Alexander Doniphan Wallace.
The University of Florida has certainly lost a great
colleague and fine mathematician.
With kind regards
Karl
Karl H. Hofmann Professor of Mathematics, Darm
stadt Institute of Technology Adjunct Professor of Math
ematics, Tulane University, New Orleans
Here is what a second exert in semigroups, Profes
sor Jimmie Lawson, wrote me by email on February 21,
1997:
"A. D. Wallace is regarding by most as the chief archi
tect of that branch of mathematics dealing with topolog
ical semigroups and related structures. His primary im
pact on the area was through his writings, his students,
and the faculty that he attracted to Tulane while he was
chairman of the Mathematics Department there during
the 50's. As a result of Wallace and his students the field
of topological algebra was a flourishing discipline, par
ticularly in the southern U.S., during the Fifties, Sixties
and Seventies.
In the 60's Wallace moved to the University of Florida
as the chairman of the Mathematics Department [ed., ac
tually Wallace did not become chairman until 1967; he
was attracted to Florida under the Chairmanship of Dr.
John Maxfield] and initiated an active program in topo
logical algebra there also. He was a commanding per
sonality and attracted several graduate students during
his stay at Florida, among them Kermit Sigmon. Dur
ing the period Wallace was looking to expand the suc
cesses achieved in the study of topological semigroups to
other topologicalalgebraic structures and assigned Ker
mit the project of studying topological means, topological
spaces endowed with a continuous and idempotent, but
nonassociative, structure. Kermit pursued typical ques
tions in the theory of means that had intrigued Wallace
and others in the area of topological semigroups: Can one
characterize such structures on the unit interval? What
onedimensional continue support such structures (a fa
vorite test example was the closure of the sin(l/x) curve)?
Kermit continued his investigation of such objects for sev
eral years. His maturest efforts involved a masterful em
ployment of techniques from algebraic topology to derive
and exploit (via the multiplication map) the cohomolog
ical properties that higherdimensional means must of
necessity exhibit.
The first and second Florida Symposia on Automata
and Semigroups (FSAS I and II) were held in Gainesville
in 1969 and 1971 and attracted topological algebraists
from all over. In pulling down the Proceedings of FSAS
II from my shelf, I observe that Kermit's organizational
skills were already in evidence, as he served as chairman
of the Editorial Committee.
My personal memories of Kermit are of his consis
tently pleasant and upbeat personality and his constant
graciousness and gentleness. His was the type of per
sonality that makes for a most congenial colleague and
fellow mathematician whom one enjoys being around.
Jimmie Lawson
Louisiana State University
Professor Jane Maxwell Day, who went to gradu
ate school at about the same time as Kermit, and was
thanked by Kermit in his thesis for her "expressions of
confidence and lending a willing ear" had the following
thoughts for me about graduate student days with Ker
mit:
"Feb 21, 1997
Hi Paul,
In 6162, Strother taught the course Algebraic Topol
ogy I out of Wallace's notes, which had been in use at
Tulane for a number of years. It was a 'prove it yourself
course as I'm sure you know. I took most of the course
but had a baby in mid October and dropped out for three
months. This meant I actually missed all the stuff on co
homology. Later, I think the first year Wallace was there,
Al Bednarek taught the course again and I went back for
the part I had missed. Kermit was in that class, and I
competed like crazy with him (I'm not sure he knew I was
competing with him though)! What I remember best is
that his proofs were always so elegant. The ones I found
were often pages longer than his, and I thought he was
dreadfully bright and creative. My other memory about
Kermit is that he knew more mathematics than I did 
several times I had question about analysis and he could
help at once.
Strother and Wallace both pushed me to finish my
degree as quickly as made sense, so I did that by spring
64 and then spent two postdoc years at UF. I think Kermit
finished most of his course work around that time and I
remember talking with him about who would direct his
thesis work. Strother was gone by then and he was not
confident that Wallace would be interested in working
with him, but I encouraged him to ask and Wallace said
yes at once. That is probably what prompted him to
mention me in the acknowledgements in his thesis.
All the best, Jane Day
Our Ph.D. alumni Professor John Kenelly of Clemson
University had the following comments for me. He had
graduated in 1960, so had not met Kermit as a graduate
student, but came to know him as a fellow professor of
mathematics.
"Date: 24 Feb 1997 03:19:35 0500
From: "John Kenelly"
Subject: Re: Dr. Kermit Sigmon
To: "Paul E. Ehrlich"
Cc: ehrlich@quickmail.clemson.edu
I had the great pleasure of knowing Kermit Sigmon
as a fellow mathematics faculty member for over two
decades. Of all the mathematicians that I have known,
Kermit was the most friendly and easiest to talk with.
No matter what the topic, deep mathematics or common
trivia, Kermit always contributed to the conversation in
his own remarkable way. Your interest and concerns were
his interest and concern so it no wonder that he is known
amongst all of us as the one best able to reach students
and alight their imagination and interest in mathemat
ics. A true master teacher. He will be always remem
bered and missed.
Professor Janos Aczel of the University of Waterloo
had the following to write about Kermit:
"Even though we knew him well also from later vis
its (197980) and from functional equations meetings, I
do not remember particular stories offhand. He was,
however, always very kind. One thing just came to our
mind: Since we drove to Gainesville in 79 but then flew
to Europe, he readily agreed that we leave our car on his
driveway for several months. As it happened, somebody
stole some or all tires of the car. Kermit had the damage
paid by his insurance, had the tires replaced and notified
us only after everything was settled.
Of course, he was also a good mathematician and a
good humoured, cheerful man. His passing away is a
great loss.
Kind regards,
Janos Aczel
Professor Steven Leon of the Department of Math
ematics at the University of Massachusetts, the head of
the ATLAST Project in Linear Algebra in which Kermit
and Jane Day participated had the following thoughts in
an email message to me:
"I do remember some very pleasant dinners with
Kermit and I remember his enthusiasm in planning the
ATLAST workshops. In the phone conversations I had
with Kermit on the Friday before he passed away when
I telephoned him from the national A.M.S. meeting in
San Diego, I remember him expressing regret that he
would not be able to do the next addition of the MAT
LAB Primer. I couldn't help but think how remarkably
dedicated he was to be even thinking of his professional
obligations at such a time. I am glad I was able to work
with Kermit on the ATLAST project and will always con
sider it a privilege and honor to have been associated
with him.
Professor David Foulis, also of the University of Mas
sachusetts, replied to me in an email message:
"Of course I have fond memories of Kermit, from the
old days in Gainesville, and from seeing him at meetings
and so on after that. Although we had many conversa
tions about mathematics, I believe that he was never in
any of my classes. I recall Kermit as a friendly, kind, and
gentle person always a pleasure to be with. "
Professor Jed Keesling, in the Department of Mathe
matics since 1967, had the following memories of Kermit:
"For several years my office was across the hall from
Kermit Sigmon. Students would visit him often and he
always made time for them. He had a philosophy of teach
ing which would encourage the students to discover as
much of the subject as possible with a minimum of guid
ance. However, if they needed guidance, he was there to
help and gave of his time without stint. For many of the
students in these courses there was a bond formed with
Kermit which lasted many years after graduation. Stu
dents would come back to visit and through those visits
would find a renewed vitality.
Kermit Sigmon developed class notes for a number of
courses that he taught. These notes reflected his philos
ophy of teaching. They are designed to lead the student
through a series of discoveries which in the end woud
give him or her a firm grasp of this area of mathematics.
One of the best students that went through our pro
gram was Vladimir Scheffer. He wrote a Masters thesis
under Kermit which showed that a particular form of
the homotopy axiom for Cech cohomology which held for
compact spaces, did not hold in a more general setting.
He also did some work on topological groups in the the
sis which I played a role in. Scheffer went to Princeton
and obtained his Ph.D. under the guidance of Almgren in
geometric measure theory. During those years of study
at Princeton and later as a new faculty member at Rut
gers, Vladimir would visit Kermit each time he was in
Gainesville. It was clear that these were times of deep
renewal for him. The area of research Vladimir was now
in was now outside Kermit's expertise, but Kermit was
still a mentor in deepest and most significant sense of the
word.
The students certainly found Kermit Sigmon to be a
friend and mentor. Many of the students I have talked
to are very conscious of the contribution he made to their
education. He left behind a great example for us all to
follow as an educator. I appreciate the bike paths in
Gainesville. I appreciate the many administrative tasks
he performed in the department. But, above all I appre
ciate the lasting and significant impression he made in
the lives of his students.
The masters student, Vladimir Scheffer, recalled by
Keesling above, is now Professor of Mathematics at Rut
gers University. The title of his masters thesis written
under Kermit's direction around 1970 is Generalizations
of the homotopy lemma for Alexander cohomology and ho
motopy classes of maps between topological groups. Pro
fessor Scheffer had the following recollections of Kermit
in an email message of April 10, 1997:
"I remember vividly the many times I came to Ker
mit's office to have a chat. We would start on one sub
ject, take a detour to another avenue of conversation, and
wind up talking about something that I had not thought
of in ages. The time would just fly by. He was always
beaming with his great smile as we talked.
It was 27 years ago when he agreed to be my mas
ter's thesis adviser. He spent so much time guiding me
on this project. He was concerned with every detail, in
cluding the punctuation of my sentences. I recall being
late for dinner once because we became so involved in the
mathematics.
I will always remember his wonderful lectures, with
careful attention to every fine point. They served as a
model for my own lectures years later. He was a wonder
ful mentor.
Professor Theral Moore, who came to our institu
tion as a young faculty member in 1955, and is thus the
only currently active faculty member to serve in both the
Kokomoor and Maxfield Chairmanships, had the follow
ing tribute to Kermit:
Subject. tribute to Kermit
Dear Paul,
Here is my contribution:
I remember Professor Kermit Sigmon as an excellent
mathematician who seemed to love all of his work and to
love sharing with, and being helpful to, his friends as
well as being helpful to students in general whether or
not he ever met them.
As Kermit advised and worked with undergraduate
mathematics majors, he sensed that their introduction
to abstract mathematics needed to be softened a bit. So
he wrote a set of notes for our course in Numbers and
Polynomials and popularized this course.
Kermit seemed to delight in solving problems, whether
they were in topological semigroups or computational lin
ear algebra or whether they were physical or organiza
tional. He was completely dedicated in his work to im
prove the computer system for the department.
To me personally, Kermit was very kind and on sev
eral occasions, he seemed to be delighted to be helpful to
me. I especially remember that in the summer of 1996, he
was aware that a major rearrangement of a class room
would help me. So he had chalk boards brought from
storage off campus and had them installed in the room.
Late one day as my wife, Nancy, and I happened to pass
that room on our way home, we found Kermit putting
the finishing touches on the rearrangement himself. He
seemed to be as pleased as I was that the problem was
solved. Although he had never told me of this project
and I had never told him of my need, he explained that
arrangements were already made so that I could move
my class to that room promptly if I wished. Nancy and I
will greatly miss Kermit.
Thank you,
Theral
Randy Dishman served on the departmental staff
and had among his responsibilities, serving as secretary
to Kermit when he was Associate Chairman for Under
graduate Studies. Randy had the following recollections
about Kermit:
Subject. Dr. Sigmon
Forwarding: Mail from 'Randy Dishman
dated: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 08:53:55 0500
Status: R
I remember the first time I met Professor Sigmon. It
was part of my interview for the job here at the Mathe
matics Department. Within 5 minutes of our conversa
tion I knew I would enjoy working with him. He made me
feel totally at ease (for those who have not sat through a
job interview lately, it can be a very trying experience).
Actually, we talked very little about my job skills or what
I thought I could do for him, he was more interested in
telling ME about HIM. Our first meeting was a prece
dent for every conversation we would have after that,
him making me very comfortable with his receptive and
'warm' tone, and me thinking to myself that I had to do
my best for this man, because he would do his best for
me.
Dr. Sigmon had many, many qualities that made him
a very unique individual. The three things I admired the
most about him though were his knowledge, his absolute
willingness to share the knowledge he had attained, and
his compassion.
Dr. Sigmon had the ability to make you feel good,
even when you didn't get what you wanted. One time
in particular, I remember making a very serious mistake
concerning the ordering of textbooks. As I walked past
his office, he very politely called for me and asked me to
close the door. I think he dreaded even bringing it up,
because he asked me 'beataround thebush' questions
before getting to the point, which was the improper or
dering of a textbook. Well, after what turned out to be
a very pleasant conversation on the correct way to place
book orders, I left the office. I remember thinking on the
way back to my desk 'I think he just chewed me out', but
I felt as if he had complimented me and thanked me in
a very sincere manner for not screwing up every thing I
did. It makes me smile just thinking about it.
His ability to deal with distraught students was
another thing I admired about him. On several dif
ferent occasions, students would be waiting to see him
that seemed near the point of a nervousbreakdown. I
screened the majority of them and became familiar with
the most common problems and their solutions. Dr. Sig
mon could take a very emotional student, whose whole
world was falling apart (according to the student), and
completely calm them down. Even when he told them
'no' or didn't give in to them, his compassion and genuine
concern for their academic careers gave them cause for
hope. I likened him to an understanding father, who, for
his child's own good, must tell them no or decline their
most impassioned request.
Dr. Sigmon appreciated every thing I did. He called
me his 'gatekeeper'. He thanked me for even the most
menial of jobs. At times it was almost embarrassing.
But mostly he made me feel important when he went on
about how much he appreciated what I did for him. I
think there must be a couple of credits of psychology in
Dr. Sigmon's background somewhere, because he sure
made me determined to do a good job for him.
It was certainly a pleasure and an honor to work for
Dr. Sigmon. I consider myself extremely lucky for even
meeting a man of his character.
My daughters still walk by his office door and tell me
'That's where Kermit the Frog lives'.
Marvel Townsend, one of our faculty members with
a responsibility for course coordinating as well as han
dling the large lecture precalculus instruction had the
following recollections of Kermit:
"Kermit Sigmon was a professor at UF when I started
teaching at UF in 1981. He never failed to give a friendly
hello and to help whenever needed. Apparently, he had
done some coordinating of large courses before I arrived,
so he was very knowledgeable about the coordinating dif
ficulties. He always thanked me for coordinating the
large precalculus course, which meant a lot to me espe
cially when things were rough.
Kermit was a strong advocate of technology. For ex
ample,he insisted that I be given a SUN computer to help
with coordinating. I had no idea how to use it, but he en
couraged me to get started by just learning how to do
ONE thing on it. Several times during the first three
months of using it, I would have liked to smash it, but
Kermit kept encouraging me. Now thanks to him, I would
be lost without my SUN. Also, he set up a template for my
lectures which I still use. He helped to get the computer
consoles in the large lecture halls which the lecturers will
use, as he was determined that the technology should be
available. He and I were still trying to figure out the most
efficient ways to use the technology in the large lectures.
In the Spring of 1995 I was nominated for a teaching
award. I had to have some letters of support so I asked
Kermit to write one for me. Unknown to me at that time,
Kermit had also been nominated. He wanted me to win
so he wrote a letter for me. Along with my other letters,
it must have been great as I won the teaching award!!
Kermit always tried to get everyone to bike to and
around campus. He was faithful to his own bike riding.
However, on occasion, I would pick him up on 16th Av
enue if the weather was bad or he had a special event.
I picked him up on Wednesday December 18 as he was
sick and the weather was bad. I was giving my final
exam that day so I remember it well. Little did I know
that it would be the last time I would see Kermit! He was
determined to get to his office to help his students before
their final exam even though he was quite sick. He was
always putting others before himself! He was a dedicated
teacher with many plans for the future of the mathemat
ics department. We all can only hope to achieve some of
his aspirations!
I have only mentioned a few of the thoughtful things
that Kermit did to help me. He was a wonderful asset
to the department of mathematics and will be greatly
missed!
Professor Rick Smith came to the University of
Florida in 1982 and took over the duties of the office of
Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in January
after Kermit's illness prevented his coming in to the de
partment. In Smith's comments, the legacy ofR. L. Moore
as reflected in Kermit's educational philosophy is mani
fested:
"Remembering Kermit Sigmon
Rick L. Smith
March 11, 1997
As I was picking up the duties of the Undergraduate
Coordinator, it was necessary to have access to Kermit's
voice mail. There were several messages from former
students requesting letters of reference. These letters
presented a particular problem since Kermit was not
able to write them, and I did not know the students well
enough myself to say much. I decided to call the students
back with the offer to write whatever I could based on
a perusal of their grade transcripts. As it happened one
young lady had left her Social Security number on the
voice mail message, so to set the plan in motion I looked
up her transcript.
Kermit was notorious for spotting mathematical tal
ent among the undergraduates. His favorite vehicle for
mathematical scouting was his pet course, 'Numbers and
Polynomials.' He had a special set of notes written for the
course so that it could be taught 'Moore style.' A Moore
style course is as close to the Socratic method as we have
in mathematical pedagogy. The Sigmon notes and the in
structor are a skeleton for a course in which the students
provide the meat. Kermit taught the course frequently
and he enjoyed helping other faculty learn how to use the
notes when they taught the course.
When I brought up her transcript, I began reading
it in reverse chronological order, seeing the most recent
courses she had taken first. Going backwards I came to
the 'A' in Numbers and Polynomials. It had done its job
once again in selecting a student for upper division suc
cess. After taking this class, both student and instructor
have a very clear idea of the student's aptitude for upper
division mathematics, and that was certainly the case
with this student. The pivotal role of this course only
makes sense when you realize that the lower division
math courses like Calculus and Differential Equations
are not good predictors for later success in upper division
math classes. So I dug deeper into the transcript, and
there was the classic Sigmon stamp, a 'C' in Calculus.
Somewhere along the line this young lady had talked to
Kermit, probably telling him about how she had liked
Geometry in high school and she thought she liked math,
but she really did not like the Calculus that much. Ker
mit would have iuice.eted that she take Numbers and
Polynomials, and after that the rest is history.
It's really hard to say how many young mathemati
cal careers got their start with Kermit's encouragement.
He would bait them along, always getting them to figure
things out for themselves, while he would set up the next
challenge. The Sigmon style did not involve giving educa
tion; it was showing people how to seize it for themselves.
Many young people got a first glimpse of their potential
through Kermit. When I called the young lady with my
offer to write a letter for her, she declined, but she did
express her great gratitude for Kermit.
Professor Krishnaswami Alladi often played tennis
with Kermit and had the following recollections of his
friend:
"I was very close to Kermit Sigmon. He was to me
a colleague, a tennis mate, and a family friend. I will
comment on each of these aspects briefly.
Kermit Sigmon was one of the principal pillars sup
porting the undergraduate mathematics program at the
University of Florida. Besides being an excellent teacher,
he contributed to the program by coordinating large lec
tures, by creating new courses, by advising, and by serv
ing as Undergraduate Chair. Kermit was a perfect gen
tleman and would never offend any one. This does not
mean that he did not have high standards; he expressed
disapproval in the most polite terms. He was willing to
give his time generously to help faculty, staff and stu
dents. Over the years I have benefitted immensely from
his advice on various undergraduate matters.
The undergraduate course MAS 3300, Number and
Polynomials is his creation. I have taught this course
many times over the past few years and am much im
pressed with the excellent set of notes due to Kermit
on which this course is based. I used to say jokingly
that Kermit has chosen me as the messiah to spread his
ideas! Now the creator of the course is gone, only the
messengers are around!
Kermit was also instrumental in the computeriza
tion of the department. I consider myself a dinosaur in
this modern world of the computer and I would have be
come extinct had not Kermit helped me in this regard.
Even today, I have the instructions given by Kermit in
pencil on 'post it' stickers everywhere in my office.
Kermit was a great tennis player. It is often said
that professional tennis players are only as good as their
second serves. Kermit had perhaps the best second serve
among all my tennis friends. We played several memo
rable matches at the 300 club. Until recently, I played
at the club only as a guest. Over all these years, Kermit
never once collected the guest fee from me.
Kermit and his wife Ruth became close to us over the
years. Everytime Kermit met my children, he would play
with them, and often introduced himself as Kermit the
Frog from Sesame Street. Quite frequently, the Sigmon's
would join the Alladi family (on short notice) for dinner
at a restaurant either in Gainesville or in Ocala.
A few years ago, Kermit and Ruth went to India. It
turned out that the year they toured India, I was at Penn
State University with my family on a sabbatical leave
from Florida. So I did not get the pleasure of hosting
them in Madras. But then it gave my parents a nice
opportunity to host the Sigmon's and to get to know them
better.
In summary, Kermit was an important part of our
life in Gainesville in many ways and we miss him terribly.
What we have are wonderful memories and these will be
with us for ever.
KRISHNASWAMI ALLADI.
At the Celebration of the Life of Kermit Sigmon men
tioned in the proceeding article, bass soloist Professor
Stephen Saxon with his wife Brenda as accompanist per
formed two musical selections at the request of the Sig
mon family: Deep River and Amazing Grace. Here is
how Steve recalled his friendship of almost 30 years with
Kermit.
"Dear Paul,
Kermit Sigmon was my friend. Of course he was
your friend, too; his faculty and community efforts still
benefit us all. But he was my best friend. We had a
common rural South background, each had one wife, one
child, one university where we worked together for 28
years to the month. We both attended college on ath
letic scholarships, both obtained the Ph.D. in the state of
Florida, both liked tennis, both were denied promotion to
full professor at the same time, both suffered earlier un
just career setbacks, both sang in operatic productions.
There were other things in common.
On the Sunday afternoon before he died (on Tues
day), I got to say goodbye to this dear friend. We re
minded each other of the good and bad times that had
cemented our friendship. We hugged each other and said
we loved each other. We laughed. We cried. I asked him
if he was at peace spiritually. He was. I told him I wanted
us to be together someday in heaven, the last and best
thing I hope we will share in common.
Steve Saxon
Professor Tony Shershin of the Department of Math
ematics, Florida International University, one of our
Ph.D. alumni from 1967, had the following recollections
for me in a letter of March 27, 1997:
"I had not heard of Kermit's death until you wrote,
and so I thank you for doing so. It indeed saddened me,
and caused me to reflect on my own mortality. Since the
MAA meeting was far away in Tallahassee, I did not get
to the meeting this year, where I would have heard the
news.
Kermit was like a big brother to me during my gradu
ate years at Gainesville. His expertise in algebraic topol
ogy and topological algebra were an inspiration to me,
and he would kindly answer my questions with a patient
understanding and always with subtle humor. Because
we both had A. D. Wallace as a mentor, we shared a spe
cial bond.
One of the things that has always stuck with me, and
which serves to indicate his truly superior research skills,
was the fact that Kermit was invited to stay at the Uni
versity of Florida once he received his Ph.D. degree. This
was a highly unusual situation and came during a period
when UF graduates were expected to go elsewhere and
'spread the Wallace gospel' as it were. No doubt that in
vitation to remain at UF was a tribute to his outstanding
research abilities.
On a personal note, Kermit and I also shared a love
for tennis. As in mathematics, he excelled at the game
and I fondly remember many fiercely contested battle'
on the courts in front of the Jennings dormitory. He was
always a gentlemen, befitting the game's protocol. You
may wish to share with his daughter that I remember
several times when he put his family ahead of our tennis
matches when he would leave early to meet his wife or
pick up his daughter. He served as a mentor to me in
the way he always tried to have his family as his first
priority, and I have tried to emulate him in that regard.
Please tell his daughter that Kermit will be in my
prayers now, and that I I remember him from time to
time on the tennis court.
Respectfully yours,
Anthony Connors Shershin
Faculty Notes
by Paul Ehrlich
Professor Krishna Alladi will be participating in
a Special Session in memory of Paul Erdos to be held
at the MAA Mathfest in Atlanta this summer. Alladi
spoke in December at the M. S. Swaminathan Research
Foundation in Madras, India on the establishment of
the Ramanujan Journal by Kluwer Publishers. Also
an Indian national newspaper, The Hindu, printed an
article by Alladi on this journal. Coordinating Edi
tor Professor Frank Garvan has placed this journal
on the world wide web if you would like to look at
it, just visit the mathematics department homepage at
http://www.math.ufl.edu and click on Garvan under
FACULTY.
Elisabeth Majthay, who has taught in our depart
ment since 1978, retired this past February. The Lec
turers took Elisabeth to dinner at Mr. Han's Restaurant
on Monday January 13th and presented her with an en
graved clock. Over the years, I have heard many under
graduate friends of my children speak highly of her as a
teacher for Calculus III.
Professor Rick Smith's book, The MATLAB Project
Book for Linear Algebra, has been published by Prentice
Hall. The cover features the fate of the Arnold cat as it
is subjected to successive iterations of a linear transfor
mation.
Professor Alexander Turull participated in the
Zassenhaus Group Theory Conference held at New Col
lege, USF, during January, 1997. He spoke on "Tensor
induction."
Professor Neill White participated in a Special Ses
sion on Computational Algebraic Geometry at the Annual
Winter Meeting of the A.M.S./M.A.A., lecturing on "Sym
metry and Antisymmetry in Bracket Polynomials."
Professor Jonathan King will be awarded the Mer
ton M. Hasse Prize for his Math Monthly article "Three
Problems in Search of a Measure" during the M.A.A.
Mathfest to be held this August in Atlanta. King also
lectured on "A zeroone law for dynamical properties" at
a Special Session on Topological Dynamics at an A.M.S.
Meeting in College Park, Maryland. Graduate student
Scott Chastain also spoke at this meeting on "Cohomo
logical quantization modules for symplectic tori."
The faculty was well represented at the A.M.S. Re
gional Meeting held Memphis during March. In partic
ular, Professor Jed Keesling was represented at four
separate presentations with three different coauthors.
Keesling, Professor Louis Block and graduate student
Chitra Krishnamurthi spoke in a Special Session on
Dynamical Systems and Fractal Geometry. Keesling
lectured on "The boundaries of selfsimilar tilings of
nspace", Krishnamurthri lectured on "Boundary of self
similar sets", and Block lectured on "Maps of the interval,
inverse limit spaces, and the pseudoarc." Professor Chris
Stark also spoke in a Special Session on Topology of Man
ifolds and Singular Spaces on "Geometry and homotopy
functors."
We had a busy spring semester of conferences orga
nized with the cooperation of different research groups in
the department. First, under the auspices of the Institute
for Fundamental Theory, Professors Chris Stark,David
Groisser, and Gerard Emch were on the organizing
committee of an international IFT Workshop on Moduli
Spaces in Geometry and Physics, held during February
14 16, 1997. Faculty member Professor Mark Kel
lum spoke on "Teichmuller Theory for Transverse Holo
momorphic Structures." Second, during February 27 
March 1, a Conference on Optimal Control: Theory, Al
gorithms and Applications was held on campus, with
Professors William Hager, Gang Bao, and Bernard
Mair involved in the organization along with Profes
sor P. M. Pardalos of the Department of Industrial and
Systems Engineering. This Conference was held under
the auspices of the Center for Applied Optimization, of
which Professor Hager is a codirector. Faculty member
Gang Bao spoke "On Surfaceenhanced and Controlled
Diffractive Optical Applications." Finally, the 13th An
nual SouthEastern Analysis Meeting (SEAM 13) was
held during March 14 16th with local organizer Pro
fessor Scott McCullough and a goodly list of over 40
speakers. Professor Paul Robinson of our department
spoke at this meeting on "A Shale theorem for the Fock
representation of a certain complex Krein space."
At the invitation of Professor Joseph Mott of Florida
State, VicePresident for Programs, Professor Paul Ehrlich
organized a Special Session on the History of Mathemat
ics for the 30th Annual Meeting of the Florida Section of
the Mathematical Association of America held at Florida
State during February 28 March 1, as well as lectur
ing on "Florida Departments of Mathematics at the Turn
of the Century." To obtain geographic balance, speakers
were secured from Florida Atlantic University, Univer
sity of North Florida, the new Florida Gulf Goast Uni
versity, University of South Florida, and Florida State
University as well as the University of Florida. Profes
sor Jean Larson of our department opened the Session
with a spirited discussion of "Erdos and joint work in
mathematics," in part a tribute to Paul Erdos's continu
ing contact with our department over the years as man
ifested by a chart showing the Erdos number of many
of our faculty. [Erdos was deceased this past September
while attending a conference at the Banach Center in
Warsaw, Poland.] The next week, Jean was off to Boca
Raton to speak a second time about Erdos at a session in
his memory.
Moduli Spaces Invade the Swamp
by David Groisser
Gerard Emch, John Klauder, Chris Stark and I,
along with 4 colleauges from the UF Physics Department,
organized the Institute for Fundamental Theory Work
shop on Moduli Spaces in Geometry and Physics,
held on campus from February 1416, 1997. This inter
disciplinary meeting was sponsored jointly by UF's Insti
tute for Fundamental Theory and by the Departments of
Mathematics and Physics, with financial aid from CLAS,
ORTGE, and an NSF grant.
The subject of the meeting is one of great current
interest, and we were fortunate to hear hour talks from
physicists Paul Aspinwall and Brian Greene, two of
the leading workers in "string duality", as well as from
mathematicians Daniel Freed and Lisa Jeffrey, two
of the participants in the Institute for Advanced Study's
199697 special program on physical field theories and
related mathematics. Conference talks touched on differ
ential and algebraic geometry, field theories in physics,
global analysis, and astrophysics. Among the speakers
was UF's Mark Kellum, who discussed his work on Te
ichmuller theory for transverse holomorphic structures
on foliations.
Outside participants came from six countries in ad
dition to the United States. About five graduate students
from other institutions attended and we had around five
participants who are postdocs or recent PhD's. Numer
ous faculty and graduate students from the UF math and
physics departments participated, including math grad
students Scott and Stacey Chastain.
Copies of speakers' talks were made available to con
ference participants, and we have had requests for these
materials from researchers who were unable to attend
the workshop.
Alumni News
by Paul Ehrlich
Our Ph.D. alumni were well represented at the An
nual Winter Meeting of the American Mathematical So
ciety/ Mathematical Association of America. Professor
John Kenelly of Clemson, Ph.D. 1961, gave a Short
Course on "Mathematical modeling and forecasting with
calculators: The difference, interplay, and new role in be
ginning courses" and also led a panel discussion on the
topic of "Careers for mathematics majors in financial risk
management." Professor Jean Bevis of Georgia State
University, Ph.D. 1965, lectured in a Session on Group
Theory on the topic of "Parametric characterizations of
toroidal maps and modular quotient groups." Professor
Antonio R. Quesada of the University of Akron, Ph.D.
1978,lectured in a Session on the Use of HandHeld Tech
nology in the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics on
the topic of "Should Recursion be Taught in Basic Math
ematics Courses ?". Also, Professor John Mayer of the
University ofAlabama, Ph.D. 1982, lectured at the Mem
phis A.M.S. Meeting on "Building higher degree Julia
sets" in a Special Session on Chaotic Dynamics.
Our alumni were also represented at the 30th An
nual MAA Florida Sectional Meeting held at FSU dur
ing February 28th and March 1. Dr. Charles Lind
sey, Ph.D. 1987, founding member of the Mathematics
Department at the University of South Florida at Fort
Myers/ Florida Gulf Coast, spoke on "Cantor and the
Origins of Transfinite Numbers" in a Special Session in
the History of Mathematics. Lindsey also received the
Florida M.A.A. Distinguished Service Award at the Sat
urday Annual Luncheon. The citation with the award
reveals that since his graduation in 1987, "Chuck has
served the Florida Section on many committees, and he
is at present the Vice PresidentElect for Programs. He
has worked tirelessly to bring the MAA Web page to com
pletion. An outstanding teacher, generous with his time
and energy, Chuck is a valued leader in the Section."
Dr. Emmet Low, Ph.D. in 1953, profiled in the
Alumni of the 50's column in the Spring, 1996 issue of
this newsletter wrote to us before Christmas "For me, the
circle seems to have made a full turn and brought back
memories of Peabody Hall. I am back at the College
[ed.,Clinch Valley College in Virginia] teaching physics
parttime. Some things in physics have changed, but
most are still the same. It is a field I really enjoy teach
ing and one in which the mathematics can come alive for
the students. My students have been responsive and we
have a great time."
Dr. Harry S. "Bud" Simrin, M.S. 1970, now a man
ager of seventy people at Lockheed Martin Tactical Air
craft Systems, in Forth Worth, Texas, was profiled on the
AMSMAASIAM Career Information Web Site during
the month of February, see http://www.ams.org/careers
and click under "Archived Profiles." More in a future
newsletter ...
Susan Daicoff. B.A. 1980, writes from Columbus,
Ohio, where she is an Assistant Professor of Law at Cap
ital University. She writes that her first baby, a boy
named Arizona Gray Baskin, was born on November 11,
1996, weighing 5 lbs., 3 ozs. and height 18 1/2 inches.
She also writes that she is having an article published
in the May, 1997 American University Law Review on
"Lawyer, Know Thyself: A Review of Empirical Research
on Attorney Attributes Bearing on Professionalism." In a
followup email correspondence, Susan had the following
further comments:
"Sorry I went so far afield from mathematics in my
later endeavors, but it just goes to show what a good
foundation a math major is. Actually, I teach taxation
which involves the most dreadful of all math ... Word
Problems So I've come full circle. My best to the math
department there I remember it fondly.
Karen Fagin, M.S. in Mathematics in 1990, and
M.D. in 1991 from the University of New Mexico, is now
an Infectious Disease Fellow at the Medical College of
Georgia in Augusta. She writes
"After completing medical school in Albuquerque,
N.M., and 3 years of internal medicine residency in Salt
Lake City, I started a fellowship in infectious diseases at
the Medical College of Georgia this July 1. It is great to
be back in the South, and I plan to drive to Gainesville
at least twice this year to see old friends.
Laurence C. Klein, B.S. in Mathematics in 1980,
reports from Pont Vedra Beach that he is now in Doc
ument Management Systems for Wellspring Resources,
LLC. Klein received the B.B.A. majoring in Accounting
at the University of North Florida in 1994. He worked as
an internal auditor for two years, and now is in a new po
sition as a Document Management Systems Fulfillment
Team Member. He is aiming at becoming an EDP Audi
tor.
Dr. Jennifer Davidson writes to us from Ames,
Iowa, that "my husband Eric and I had a baby girl, Ella
Kathleen Bartlett, on October 8, 1996. She is wonder
ful. Taking advantage of my adjunct appointment in
the mathematics department (I am in electrical and com
puter enginnering), I have my second M.S. student who
is working on his thesis in image processing. Hope all is
well in Little Hall !
Little By Little is published twice a year
to inform students and alumni of activities
of the Department of Mathematics, Uni 
versity of Florida. It is typeset using AMS
TeX.
Chair ............ ................ Joseph Glover
Editor .................................. Paul Ehrlich
Coeditor ..................... Zoran PopStojanovic
Production ......................... Arlene Williams
Please mail your reply and/or gift to Alumni, Donations, Department of Mathematics, University of Florida, Gainesville,
FL 326118105.
NAME/Di '1;iii: YiE ii:
MAILING ADDRESS
CITY
CHECK IF THIS IS A CHANGE OF ADDRESS
POSITION
CHECK IF THIS IS A NEW POSITION
PERSONAL NEWS
STATE
FIRM OR AGENCY
I would like to make a gift of $ to the Fund indicated below.
Check one of the three lines below.
check enclosed (made out to University of Florida Foundation)
charge my Visa account #
charge my Mastercard account #
Check the Fund to which you wish your gift to be credited.
General Gift Fund
The Robert Long Prize in Mathematics
Mathematics Fellowship Fund
Kermit Sigmon Award
Check one of the two lines below.
You may list my name with those of other donors.
Please do not list my name with those of other donors.
Your signature.
ZIP CODE
Exp. date
Exp. date
