Robert Allen Liebler's Memorial Page

Robert Allen Liebler

Memorial Page


Thank you for visiting this page. We would love it if you share your thoughts or memories or even photographs of Bob. Please send an email to
and we will post your message at this site.

Bob's former Website

Diane Belak

I just heard about Dr. Liebler's sudden passing. He was my thesis advisor. I hadn't seen him in years until last Christmas when I was in town over the holiday. It was great to see him and we had a nice chat.

So sorry for his family and the department.

Diane Belak

Steve Doty:

I'm saddened to learn this news.

Bob and I shared an office at MSRI in 1990. In his quiet and unassuming manner he touched lives deeply and personally in an unforgettable way.

Steve Doty

Sharad Sane:

I was very sorry to hear of passing away of Bob Liebler. I knew him reasonably well and during my one year at Michigan Tech in 99-2000. Bob Liebler had invited me to give a talk in their weekly combinatorics seminar activity. He was an extremely good researcher and a very warm person. Please pass my condolences to his family. Thanks and with regards.



Spyros Magliveras from Florida:

I am shocked to hear this. An old and dear friend he was, from our days in Ann Arbor, and I had expected him to be with us for a very long time.


Jenny Key from Clemson:

Spyros forwarded your e-mail with the terrible news about Bob. I am really shocked and sad about it. He was a very good walker with a lot of experience from the Rockies, so it is hard to understand how this could happen to him in California.

Please pass on deep sympathies from Colin and me to Linda. We did visit them in Fort Collins that year I was in Nebraska.


Michel Lavrauw from Gent:

Terrible news. I only met him last year at Fort Collins but I wished I had met him earlier in my life.

Bill Kantor from Eugene, Oregon:

Phyllis and I have driven around and hiked in Banff (during a conference). Every high mountain peak and every cirque makes me think of Bob.


Gary Ebert from Delaware:

I just returned from Ireland, and knew nothing about Bob's tragic death. It is quite a shock, especially since Chris and I went snow shoeing with him in Banff at the BIRS conference. He seemed in terrific shape, and certainly was an experienced hiker and climber. I cannot understand it.


Norm Johnson from Iowa:

Thanks for letting me know about Bob ---terrible and tragic loss.

Bob was a great and fun-loving guy and he will be missed. Once when I could not understand a proof in one of Bob's articles, I sent him a question saying that I was going round and round but could not get it. He sent me back a reprint of the paper with the proof to the question written in the margins of the paper ---but around and around in the margins--you had to keep turning the paper round and round etc. ---maybe even counterclockwise--but he hoped I got it this way round.

Regards, Norm

Manley Perkel from Wright State:

Sylvia has been keeping me informed about this tragedy. I knew Bob a little especially in the 70's while I was a grad student and soon after graduating. In fact I invited him to Wright State for a few days in the 80's where he gave a colloquium and we had a day of interesting math Very sad.


Cheryl Praeger from Perth, Australia

This is terrible news. Horrible. I heard it this afternoon from Bob Guralnick, but not what the situation was. It's difficult to comprehend.


Joel Iiams, Grand Forks, ND:

What a shock! As one of Bob's seven Ph.D. students I'm incredibly saddened. My condolences to his family and other friends.

Misha Klin, Beer-Sheva, Israel:

Dear friends, I am terribly shocked by sad news about sudden death of Bob.

Please send our deep sincere condolences to the family of Bob.

I met with Bob a few times, including last year.

For many monthes a year ago we were working together over proposal to BSF. Though it was not accepted, this communication was a great pleasure and fantastical experience for all us. Last recent words of Bob to our virtual team was the expression of the hope for future benefits of our attempts to collaborate.

Bob was very friendly, honest and kind person with exceptionally deep devotion to mathematics and wide generous scope of research interests. His influence on modern combinatorics, algebra and geometry is incomparable with a physical amount of his publications.

The light of his ideas will shine for us for a very long time.

I am very sorry by these sad news.

Sincerely, Misha Klin

Andrew Woldar, Villanova, Pennsylvania:

I am in shock.

Bob was all the things Misha mentioned, plus much more. In particular, he was a most imaginative thinker, which contributed greatly to his career as an outstanding mathematician.

Above all, I respected Bob's honesty. He was direct and forthright.

Folks, we have lost a terrific colleague and an even greater friend.

Bill was closest .. Bill and Bob formed an incredibly gifted team.

I had known Bob since 1979, but never got to know him as well as I would have liked. I am hoping to learn more about Bob in the forthcoming years, with Bill as my source.

I still cannot believe this awful news ..


and another contribution by Andy:

I first met Bob at Ohio State around 1981 when we attended a class together in representation theory. It was only earlier this year that I had the wonderful experience of preparing a grant proposal with him. Everyone involved worked intensively on the proposal for 1-2 months solid, and it was a real bonding experience for all of us. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity, and I will miss him greatly.

Vera Pless, Chicago, Illinois:

This is really very sad. Give my condolences to his family.

Qing Xiang, Delaware:

I am sorry to hear the sad news. Bob will be missed.

Karl-Heinz Zimmermann, from Hamburg, Germany:

ich bin schockiert ueber diese Nachricht.

Er war im Mai 1992 in BT und wir haben in dieser Zeit ein Paper geschrieben:

Bob's Favorite Lemma ist ein wichtiges Theorem in meiner Habilitationsschrift.

Translation: I am shocked about the news. He was in Bayreuth in May 1992 and during that time we wrote a paper (preprint link see above). Bob's favorite Lemma is an important Theorem in my Habilitation.

Anne Delandtsheer, from Brussels, Belgium:

I will never forget, when I first met him in 1984, his enthousiasm when telling "you do not know what a blue sky is unless you have been in Colorado".

Anton Betten:

I found this photo of Bob. It was taken in June 2005, when Rieuwert Block and his wife Karen were about to leave town to go to Ohio. Next to Bob is Alexander and his wife Kinga.

I am very thankful to Bob. He was probably the reason why I came to this country. We shared an interest in a kind of Mathematics that we both loved. Coincidentally, I was in Bayreuth in the Summer of 1992 as a young student of Kerber when Bob was visiting Karl-Heinz Zimmermann (though we did not meet at that time).
Bill Kantor found this photo, taken in 2007:

Cheryl Praeger contributes the following photos:


I would like to share a couple of photos of Bob that I'll attach. The first one with his dog I took close to Halloween in 2005 at Bob and Linda's place - that Halloween I spent with Bob and Linda in their home. The second photograph is the last photograph that Bob sent to me - of Bob, John Bamberg and Celle Lavrauw in the Colorado Mountains - in March 2008.

Bob was fascinated with the wild life around Perth. The last two photographs are small versions of ones he emailed to me during his last visit to Perth in 2007 - his email subjects were "Talk about flexibility" and "The parrots were drinking from the gutter" (that is, the gutter above his office window).


I only met Bob this year in March when I visited Tim and gave a talk in the Rocky Mountains seminar. I remember we had a nice dinner after the seminar and he told me to come back to Fort Collins. Despite this very short encounter, he left me the impression to be a very happy and active person.

Jeroen Schillewaert, UC Canterbury, New Zealand

Dr Liebler introduced me to Linear Algebra. He also helped me with my graduate work in Chemistry. I think of him often when doing my work (any time I have to deal with an array!) and the jokes and historical-context-stories he used to tell us in class. What a loss! I only now heard of his passing away. He looks so full of life in his picture on the Memorial Page, just as I remember him, with his hallmark grin. What a great teacher!

Krishna Vasudevan

What happened to Bob that Day?  We heard from his hiking companions that he and his hiking-mate of the day got a late start, perhaps due to the hiking mate's inexperience.  That put them on the trail during a hotter part of the day than Bob had planned.  Then part way up the climb, Bob told his hiking partner he wasn't feeing well and was going to turn around.  The inexperienced partner let Bob turn around to go down alone.  Bob took a wrong turn at a well-worn place where others had evidently turned before.  When the rescue party found his body about 36 hours later, it was in a seated position looking like he just stopped for a rest.  Bob had plenty of water and a working cell phone, and he was within sight of Palm Springs, CA when he died but had not called forhelp. On a recent trip to the Desert Museum near Tucson, I learned from a guide what probably happened to Bob. It was 119 degrees on that mountain that day, and the desert guide in Tucson said no living thing can survive that temperature, but generally the person does not recognize that he is in trouble, he just suddenly dies from dehydration.  That leads me to believe he never saw death coming and he was happy at the moment he died.  He loved Hiking.

Barbara Liebler, Bob's first wife (of 21 years)

I realize that this memorial page doesn't tell about the circumstances of my dad's death while hiking the Cactus to the Clouds trail near Palm Springs, CA. So I thought I'd share what I know.

Dad and a friend, both very experienced hikers, started the Cactus to the Clouds hike on July 18, 2009 at about 2am. They were planning to meet a group of friends part way up the trail -- the friends would take the gondola up the mountain. It was dark when the two started, of course, and they lost the trail several times before sun-up. They were about one hour behind schedule and Dad had a little bit of leg cramping, so he decided to be safe and turn back. He did not want to ruin his friends hike and it was well within both of their personalities to think that they were not taking ridiculously high risks by splitting up. Dad was concerned about his friend -- he took his friend's picture so he'd have it in case there was a search & rescue operation and he tried to give him his food, water, and maps. His friend took the maps but not the other items.

Dad left his friend's company about 3 miles from the trail head, at about 6am. He was about a mile from the trail head when he died. He was found about 50 feet off the trail, part way down a gully that led directly to a tennis club. I think he was purposely taking a short cut to get to air conditioning. He needed to scramble for about 200 yards down a steep rocky hill in order to reach the tennis club. When he was found by a rescue helicopter the following morning, he was dead from heat stroke, sitting down in a resting position, had a charged and accessible cell phone, had water, food, and red wine, and was in plain view of Palm Springs. Clearly, he didn't know he was in serious trouble and was not too worried or upset when he died.

He was a truly wonderful man and we miss him so much.

Carolyn Liebler, adoring daughter.