Department of Mathematics - College of Natural Sciences Colorado State University

Richard James Painter - November 15, 2013

Richard Painter

Richard James (Dick) Painter, professor emeritus of mathematics at Colorado State University, died on Sunday morning, Nov. 10, after a six month illness due to pancreatic cancer.

Painter was a member of the CSU mathematics faculty from 1963 through 2011. He was 82 years old at the time of his death.

Dick was born July 20th, 1931, in Greensboro, N.C. to James W. Painter and Kathleen Sharer Painter. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1949 until 1955, earning an AB and masters degree in mathematics. In 1955 he began work on his PhD at the University of Colorado, where, as a Southerner, he was so unaccustomed to the treeless land that he could not bear to look out the windows of his 2nd story student apartment for several months. However, the move to Colorado proved life-changing, for it was then that his love affair with the mountains and plains of Colorado began.

The move to Colorado proved even more life changing, as it was at CU that he met, wooed and proposed to a beautiful nursing student; his one true love and life companion. On July 28th, 1957, Dick Painter and Jan Manson were married in her home town in western Kansas. The young couple stayed in Colorado where, in 1957, Dick worked as a computer programmer for the Martin-Marietta Company in Denver. In 1958 they moved to Lynchburg, Va., where Dick was employed as a mathematical analyst for the Atomic Energy Division of Babcock and Wilcox Company, working on the Savannah River Project.

In 1960, he returned to Chapel Hill where he received his PhD in mathematics in 1963. Having fulfilled this dream, he returned west, where he started his career at CSU as a member of the mathematics faculty.

Dick was a member of Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts and sciences honor society, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and Phi Delta Theta social fraternity. He was selected as the CSU Honors Professor for Fall of 1974 and received the CSU Jack E. Cermak Advising Award for 1993-1994. He co-authored two linear algebra textbooks.

Richard Painter

Painter was a man of many interests including mountain climbing and desert hiking. His love of the high country was immeasurable, climbing all 53 of the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado--his most recent one just 14 months ago when he repeated a climb he had done with one of his sons 30 years before. Dick also climbed in the Alps, the Himalaya, Africa, and the Andes of Patagonia. Notable climbs included Mount Rainier in Washington, Popocatepetl in Mexico and even Mount Sunflower--the high point of Kansas. He was always a modest man about his climbs and never suffered over occasionally not summiting--the climb itself and the camaraderie were all-important.

He shared many of his passions with others, including astronomy, reading classics and poetry, master wooden ship model building, singing in the Larimer Chorale for 34 years, downhill and cross-country skiing (serving as the faculty advisor to the CSU ski team for several years), playing poker with a group of friends of about 35 years, jogging and weight lifting, billiards and snooker, fishing with his children and then his grandchildren, and countless cross-country road trips throughout the United States with his wife. But his greatest passion was teaching undergraduate students where he searched for "diamonds in the rough", students who had real mathematical talent but weren't yet aware of that talent. Until not long before his death, Dick continued with delight tutoring math students and occasionally teaching his beloved linear algebra class at CSU.

While Dick was in Los Angeles in August receiving cancer treatment, his two sons staged an 82nd birthday party atop Mt. Wilson where Dick and several friends and family members observed the heavens through a 60 inch telescope that had been used many years ago by the likes of Harlow Shapley and Edwin Hubbel to make important astronomical discoveries. Though Dick was quite ill, he still found this a lifetime highlight. To add to that joy, in August, he met and spent several hours over dinner swapping climbing stories with the famous climber and cinematographer, David Breashears, another great pleasure at an otherwise difficult time.

One cannot speak of Dick Painter without mentioning that he could always make others laugh with his quick wit and amazing smile. He was a generous, poised, interesting, and kind man who loved people, adults and children alike. Dick is survived by Jan, his wife of 56 years; son, J. Marcus Painter and his wife Jennifer and their two children, Nathaniel and Kailey Anne, of Boulder, Colo.; and son, Thomas Howell Painter and his wife, Tania, and their two sons, Emile and Micah of Pasadena, Calif. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews, all of whom loved to try to overcome Uncle Dick playing Gin Rummy. Though he usually won, he was still a favorite of all the children in the family because he was full of fun.

Dick asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be made to The Richard J. Painter Fund for Undergraduate Mathematics Education, c/o The CSU Foundation, or directly to the University of North Carolina Department of Mathematics for the purpose of undergraduate education in mathematics. Donations should be made in care of Allnutt Funeral Service, 650 West Drake Road, Ft. Collins, CO 80526.

A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 19, 2013 in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center of CSU, with reception to follow in the University Club.

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