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Janet Whalen Kammeyer (PhD 1988)
He was an inspiring teacher, an encouraging PhD advisor and a good friend and colleague. I believe I was his first PhD student, earning my degree in 1988 at the University of Maryland. We later collaborated in writing the book, Restricted Orbit Equivalence for Actions of Discrete Amenable Groups. I have many wonderful memories of Dan, including the fact that he was a modern dancer. There was one time when he recruited a handful of us graduate students to dance, as extras, in a production he was in. As you can imagine, we were a very funny group of non-dancers. Dan was a terrific person, who will be missed.
Deborah Heicklen (PhD 1997)
Dan was my graduate school advisor at University of Maryland from 91-97. The last year of my doctorate, Dan and I traveled to Jerusalem to participate in a special year in Ergodic Theory there. Throughout my graduate school experience, he was always there for me. He spent countless hours in his office listening to my ideas, brainstorming with me, and gently guiding me successfully through graduate school. He was especially supportive in helping me win the Fulbright Scholarship, which enabled me to travel to Israel with him. I will always cherish my graduate school experience because of him. He had the rare mix of brilliance and humanity that made him a great man.
Karen Ball (PhD 2002)
I have been thinking of Dan a lot over the last few months, since Ayse told me about the conference in his honor this spring. I really wish that I could go, but my husband and I are expecting our first child in May, and my last experience traveling while pregnant was a disaster. I loved being a graduate student, and thought Dan was a very good adviser. I also love the job I have now, which my degree made possible. I am very grateful for all he did for me.
Dave McClendon (PhD 2006)
I couldn't have picked a better advisor than Dan. Not only was he a brilliant mathematician, but also a great teacher - in the sense that he knew when to be patient with me, when to kick me in the rear, when to give me some help, and when to give me room to figure things out myself. (Of course, it didn't hurt that he was flush with grant money to supplement my income either.) But as I got to know Dan better, I realized, as everyone who knows him does, that he was an even greater person than he was a mathematician. He practiced kindness toward all and exhibited incredible courage and optimism in the face of his deteriorating health. Put simply, Dan was not just an advisor, but a friend and role model, and I will miss him greatly.
Andrew Dykstra (PostDoc 2007-2009)
While it is appropriate to remember Dan for his contributions to mathematics, what I will remember most about Dan is the extraordinary kindness he showed me during my two years in Colorado. He was always patient, thoughtful, and selfless. I am tremendously grateful for everything Dan did for me.
Eric Holt (PhD 2009)
Dan was a wonderful graduate advisor. He did not mind explaining something twice and was very good at setting short-term, measurable goals. Even as his health was declining, he set aside abundant time to meet with his graduate students and even read my dissertation three times! Dan was a fine example in generosity and professionalism that I hope to be able to mimic in my own career.
Don Ornstein, Stanford University
I was Danís thesis advisor at Stanford in the 70ís. But more than being one of my best students, Dan became a lifelong friend and valued colleague to his end. I marveled at his fortitude and his continued ability to do first rate mathematics in the face of a debilitating illness. His talk at the Thouvenot meeting in France and his organization of the Fort Collins retreat were more than impressive and something to admire. As a friend Dan was a welcomed guest at our home; he was genuinely interested in our children who have fond memories of him. Of course I will never forgive Dan for always swimming faster than I no matter how hard I tried to keep up.
After finishing his PHD, Dan joined me and a group of some of the very best people in Ergodic Theory for a year at the Institute of Advanced Study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem . It was during that year that I realized what a formidable mathematician he was. There was a problem in particular that was central to several things on which we were working. Although we all tried very hard to solve it; Dan beat us all with a ingenious solution. Best of all, the year in Jerusalem allowed us to form an even closer friendship as he was very much a part of our family. I was sorry that we lived and worked on different coasts so that I did not get to know his family as he knew mine.
Danís loss will not only be felt by his friends but the entire Mathematical community has lost a great mathematician.
Michael Boyle - Department of Mathematics, University of Maryland
The good thing about saying some words remotely is that there is a chance of getting through them. Dan's death would not be such a huge loss for us if he had not been such a remarkable human being. He leaves a hole like the Grand Canyon. But what a canyon!!. A part of that was mathematical brilliance. His forte was the creative act, the new construction. But he also built theories and had visions. He worked on many problems with many people. He liked to help. He had fun. At the Pingree Park conference in August, I mentioned a result I had figured out over a day or two. Instantly and with an air of great mischief, Dan said, "Oh, I can do that."
The University of Maryland created an honor called "Distinguished Scholar Teacher". Dan was the math department's first nominee, and first winner. There was a common element to Dan's dance, research talks and university teaching. He was a performer.
Dan had a sense of upholding the needs of a community. At Maryland, in the math department he was the exemplary citizen. Calculus reform with an eye to helping minorities. Three years as graduate chair. Acting as chair for a year. Starting the Spiral program, an undergraduate REU oriented especially to students from traditionally black colleges and universities. Leading the department's application for an NSF VIGRE Grant FIVE TIMES, and succeeding on the fifth. (You may need an academic background to appreciate the pain of that process.) At his mathematical level, he could have avoided all that and just had fun with his research. He didn't. Dan's relentless positivity was humbling, and inspiring. Over the years, greeted with some colleague's behavior I thought unreasonable and demanding, he would find a way be supportive of that colleague. Encountering a dubious student, he would find a way to help. Dan didn't write people off.
That astonishing positivity extended to ALS. Hearing of a near tragic accident of one of my siblings, Dan told me he was lucky to have a transparent problem like ALS. I don't think so. Dan mentioned an ALS victim who had a list of things that made his life worth living, and was losing them one by one, and would kill himself when there were only 50 left. Dan said, when he lost one, he would find another one to put on the list.
Dan's death was shock not just for his family, but for mathematical friends around the world. He is so missed, because he gave so much. As the Beatles said, the love you take, is equal to the love you make. Here is a sample of the many heartfelt replies to my email announcements of Dan's death.
After a while, you do. It come and goes but the amplitude of the wave decays. Over time, I hope we will be less stricken by the sense of loss, and more filled with all the good memories, and gratitude for knowing this special human being. I think the ultimate Mr. Positive would like it that way.
Alvin Mayes, University of MarylandDan danced in the Maryland DC community from 1980 to about 2000 and a supporter through organizations like the Dance Place. There are two specific dance events that Dan felt very proud of. One was when he danced with his Wife Michelle in a work called "Allegro Brilliante" and the second was when he had the opportunity to perform "For Bill and Johnalou" [a work celebrating the love of his parents] in a special showing for his parents when they were visiting Maryland when he moved to Colorado we lost a great supporter of the arts in Washington. And now we have lost a generous friend and extraordinary husband and dad. Alvin Mayes