Monday, August 16, 2010

Professor Bill Cooper's 96th Birthday

At a dinner party at Professor Georg Pflug's lovely apartment in Vienna, Austria, late last month a group of us who had been invited as part of the Computational Management Science conference that was taking place there were talking about the beautiful minds in our field. We were discussing how we had lost Professor George Dantzig of Stanford at age 90 a few years back and were chatting about how there were still giants among us who were doing research well past what one would consider to be retirement age.

We singled out Professor William "Bill" Cooper of the University of Texas Austin. Little did I realize that, while we were talking about him, it was only a few days past his 96th birthday, which took place on July 23! The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas issued this nice article to mark this grand achievement of longevity and productivity. Professor Cooper, at age 66, after having previously taught at Carnegie Mellon University and at Harvard University, joined the business school faculty of the University of Texas Austin. His professional contributions in accounting, and in operations research and management science are legendary and, I might add, his productivity actually increased in his decade of 78-88 years of age!

Professor Cooper, although now officially retired, still comes to work, and says that he wants to die while living and not from a cold or from pneumonia.

Professor Bill Cooper will be honored at the 2010 INFORMS National Meeting, which will take place next November (conveniently) in Austin, Texas. I plan on being there to thank him and to congratulate him for all of his accomplishments and for his impact.

Above is a letter I received from Professor Cooper when I was named the John F. Smith Memorial Professor (a chaired professorship). The letter hangs in my office directly above my desk. The fact that at age 84, he would take the time to write and have such a letter typed and even mailed to a mutual friend, speaks to the kindness, thoughtfulness, and manners of this titan.