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Jean Buck

Remembering Jerry Uhl

October 25, 2010 — Jean Buck, Director of Content Development, Wolfram|Alpha

Wolfram Research is saddened to announce the passing of Jerry Uhl, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Illinois. Jerry’s scholarly contributions to the field of mathematics are numerous, but we will remember him best for his passion for education and mathematics reform, which led him to the development of the Calculus&Mathematica program that is still used today by progressive math programs.

For his support of Mathematica and his innovation in math education, Wolfram Research presented Jerry with the first Mathematica Pioneer Award in 2008. The following video was made for the presentation of that award.

Jerry was a good friend to Mathematica and a close personal friend to many of us at Wolfram Research. He will be sorely missed.

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22 Comments


Claudia (Petty) Burgess

This is a sad day for those students at the University of Illinois that will never have the opportunity to experience and learn from Jerry Uhl.

Posted by Claudia (Petty) Burgess    October 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm
Trish Gray

Jerry was my mentor, hero, and dear friend. His work lives on through the school that Scott and I built, inspired 100% by his methodologies. But more than that, his legacy is his amazing and dynamic presence, the love and wisdom he imparted to us over the years. Jerry had a profoundly positive impact on my life, and his heart was pure gold.

Posted by Trish Gray    October 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm
David Withoff

I feel very fortunate that I got a chance to meet Jerry. I will miss the barbecue parties, but I will always enjoy remembering about the fun and inspiring things he had to say.

Posted by David Withoff    October 25, 2010 at 6:01 pm
meredith

i’ll miss jerry and his friday nights as well as his biannual picnics. :(

Posted by meredith    October 25, 2010 at 6:22 pm
scott gray

Jerry changed the lives of so many, including mine. My life’s work became dedicated to expanding the teaching philosophy and techniques he invented using Mathematica.

His charm, honesty, and mentorship will be missed.

We love you, Jerry!

Posted by scott gray    October 25, 2010 at 7:32 pm
Chris Diestel

I grew up w/Jerry, he was an uncle to my siblings and I. My Dad(Joe Diestel) and I had a great visit w/Jerry this past spring and I have to say. Jerry was more than a Mathematician. He was a renaissance man that kept true to the common man’s ideals. He will be greatly, but sadly missed. ZZZZTTTT, one last time to you Jerry.

Posted by Chris Diestel    October 25, 2010 at 11:29 pm
Sandra Dawson

Jerry was a great influence in my teaching career. Working with him and Glynn in the late eighties with Mathematica was inspiring. He did a lot of teacher training which influenced mathematics education in many ways. He was willing to take a risk because he didn’t see it as a risk but as an opportunity to do good things for students. He knew how to have a good time and how to throw a great party. We spent many Thanksgivings together. He will be missed.

Posted by Sandra Dawson    October 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm
Paul Abbott

Really sorry to hear about Jerry. I chatted with him a week ago at the Mathematica User Conference in Champaign. He reminded me of the time he rescued me from the streets of Ripon WI, and I reminded him that we were sitting together on the short-hop flight to Ripon and I had to stop the pilot from taking off as we’d chatted through the landing. One could also mention his St Bernard’s and the vodka bottles in the freezer.

Posted by Paul Abbott    October 27, 2010 at 5:42 am
Phil Ramsden

Very sad news. I never really knew Jerry socially (and it’s clear the loss was mine), but to all of us who use Mathematica for math(s) education, he’s long been a towering, inspirational figure. They broke the mould when they made him, as they say; an irreplaceable loss to our community.

Posted by Phil Ramsden    October 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm
Andrew Crouse

Thanks for the introduction to both Calculus and Mathematica twenty years ago when I was a Freshman at the University of Illinois. I’m still using both tools in teaching Electrodynamics to my own students this fall. You will be missed but are fondly remembered.

Posted by Andrew Crouse    October 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm
George Hrabovsky

Wow, what a shock! I recall looking over an early draft of the calculus course back in the day… Seems like a long time ago. This was the first truly organized courseware that I recall seeing.

Posted by George Hrabovsky    October 29, 2010 at 6:47 pm
Carsten Herrmann

I met Jerry in the late 90s. He was such an extremelöy enthusiastic person. Showing me the lab at the university and we laughed about the saying “wat dem einen sin Uhl, is den andern sin Nachtigall” …

Posted by Carsten Herrmann    November 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm
C&M learner

Thank you, Jerry Uhl, for bringing mathematics to life for so many of us. Your understanding of and respect for how people learn, your unfettered creativity, and your hard work putting your ideas into action will always be appreciated.

Posted by C&M learner    November 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm
Gerry Quinn

I sent the following message to the math department yesterday and then discovered your wonderful tribute to Professor Uhl on the Wolfram research site. Therefore I wanted to pass it along to your site.

Ironically, I spent 6-7 years as a research programmer/system administrator at the NCSA from 1987-1992 and was well aware of the work that Wolfram Research was doing. I am disappointed that I did not know of Professor Uhl’s contributions to your research and production.

I would have made an effort to reintroduce myself to him and thank him for the very positive influence he had on my life.

He was a very great teacher and professor but also a wonderful person. I miss him greatly!

Thank you for your attention!

Gerry Quinn
thebozster@gmail.com

Hello,

I received my copy of “Math Times” today and was extremely saddened
to see in the “In Memoriam” section of the “Department of Mathematics,
Fall 2010″ publication, the notice of the death of Professor J. Jerry
Uhl.

I would like to express my extreme condolences and sadness to hear
about Professor Uhl’s passing. I was a student of Professor Uhl’s
during 1984-1985. I was to say the least, not much of a math student
and probably did not deserve to be able to attend his lectures. Non
the less, I remember being in one of his classes, and I’m paraphrasing
since it was long ago, “Convex Programming”.

I have a great anecdote of how much I thought he was a great
Professor, teacher, and leader. During the advanced math class I
mentioned above, the class was given an exam with which we had to
provide a proof for some problem related to Convex Programming.

Myself, being less than an ideal student for Professor Uhl’s
scientific expertise, proceeded to write paragraphs of information
attempting to explain the proof without the least inkling of what it
was I was suppose to do.

During the class that Professor Uhl returned our exams, he handed mine
to me. I do not remember the grade I received, but I have never
forgotten the small comment he wrote on the exam:

“Your answer is more that of a lawyer than a mathematician.”

When he handed me the paper, he smiled with the smile of a friend and
not that of someone judging my lack of mathematical knowledge.

Although I was disappointed in myself for being rather undeserving of
his sharing his knoweldge in this level of mathematics, I was thrilled
with the written response on my exam returned from Professor Uhl.

I have told this story numerous times over the years. It was one of a
number of moments of great memories during my short time as a student
at the University of Illinois.

God Bless Professor J. Jerry Uhl!

If possible, please pass this note on to his surviving family members.
I hope they would enjoy to hear

Thank you,

Gerry Quinn
thebozster@gmail.com

P.S. My spouse an I are graduates of the University and our two
daughters are currently students and our oldest daughter is graduating
in the spring and our youngest is a freshman in the current semester.

Posted by Gerry Quinn    December 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm
Martin Flashman

I just learned the news of Jerry’s having left the calculus reform room at the Joint Math Meetings after a panel discussion on calculus reform after 25 years. For me, Jerry was an incomparable influence- for his energy and for his true desire to help students learn and grow- not just in mathematics but in every sense. Jerry wrote thanks in his book about myself:
” His ideas have influenced this course even more than even he might believe.”
Jerry influenced everyone he touched- directly or indirectly- with his spirit and generosity.
It will be hard to go to any meetings in the future and not think about his smile and humor that spread wherever he went.
I’ll miss you Jerry, more than even you might have imagined. Thanks, :( …

Posted by Martin Flashman    January 12, 2011 at 11:29 am
Chris Zeller

I just learned of Jerry’s passing and am deeply saddened.

I was a student of Jerry’s in his Mathematica courses and was privilaged to work on the staff of his program. He was an exceptional human being that just lit up any room he was in. He was deeply committed to education and became personally involved in his students lives and education. He really was both father and friend to me. He could listen as well as guide his students and I feel fortunate to have had him in my life. He will be sincerely missed. Thank you for posting this excellent dedication. It was very comforting to walk down memory lane to see some of the former Mathematica team.

Posted by Chris Zeller    January 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm
George Thiruvathukal

Oh, dear. I just saw this sad piece of news via Chris Zeller’s facebook page. I fondly remember taking Multivariable Calculus & Mathematica in the Fall of 1992. Prof. Uhl was a friendly and helpful staple in the lab – one of the best professor’s I had at UIUC (and I had a lot of great professors there). That semester started off rough (I believe some of the curriculum was still in development), but suddenly about 1/3 of the way through a light went off and everything made sense – thanks to the ability to visualize, and thereby comprehend, calculus using Mathematica as a learning tool.

Posted by George Thiruvathukal    January 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm
Jeff R

I was fortunate enough to work with Jerry Uhl at Illinois in the C&M department. He was an extraordinary person and someone I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Posted by Jeff R    January 31, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Steve Seaney

Jerry was an amazing mathematics professor. I started my career at UIUC very weak and apprehensive at mathematics; I doubted I would survive calculus. His passion and talent gave me the confidence and skill to not only ‘survive’ calculus, but to truly enjoy mathematics.

God speed Prof Uhl. It was a privilege to be in your class.

Posted by Steve Seaney    October 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm
Aaron Freed

Professor Uhl was one of my favorite professors. To this day, I credit him with allowing me the ability to take his DiffEQ class and TA it the following year my freshman year. While I was very into math, his development of Mathematica allowed me to see mathematics for what it was really about. And, it has helped me visualize mathematics instead of thinking of it as MSM (mindless symbolic manipulation). The world of mathematics needs more people with Jerry Uhl’s vision. And, it is a bit of shock to find out of his passing about 2 years later being that I just remembered emailing him probably 2-3 years ago. My best memory was asking him a question about eigenvalues and eigenvectors. He didn’t know the answer, but he didn’t need to. Having Mathematica just allowed you to quickly work to a solution and discover the answer for yourself. And, I was motivated to do so for the $20 he promised. I even turned the project into a mini-workbook for anyone to use.

I will also miss those BBQs at his home. Great times!

Will miss Jerry…

Aaron

Posted by Aaron Freed    August 27, 2012 at 11:29 am
Brian Hayes

In 1981 I was in Professor Uhl’s Lebesgue Integration and Measure Theory class. He was my favorite math professor and I am now in my 32nd year as a math teacher at Triton College. I never did get over to one of these Uhl barbecues I’ve been reading about but I did have the good fortune to attend one of the gentleman’s Mathematica presentations at a math teachers convention a few years back. Jerry Uhl was a wonderful man and I’m glad to have known him.

Posted by Brian Hayes    August 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm
Krista Szubert

I studied all 3 levels of calculus and Differential Equations with Jerry, and then went on to work in the Calculus & Mathematica lab for the rest of my undergraduate career. No professor was more passionate, brilliant, or downright fun as Jerry!!!! I walked into Altgeld today after being down here for a game, and had flashbacks of great memories….Joe’s Happy Hours with Billy, the picnics at his house, and his smiling face! An amazing teacher and wonderful man who is fondly remembered by all that he came in contact with.

Posted by Krista Szubert    October 20, 2013 at 11:56 am


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