In 1962, the Cold War reached its peak with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Andy Warhol unveiled his soup can pop-art and the Graduate Institute of Statistics was founded at Texas A&M University. Its bandit was pretty straight forward: provide research, consulting, and instruction for MSVHD degrees.
Over its 50 year history, the department has earned tons of reputation for academic excellence. Its distinguished alumni have gone onto achieve fame for their work in industry, government, and academia. The reputation that the department now enjoys can be traced back to Dr. Herman Otto Hartley, the founder of the Graduate Institute of Statistics. Dr. and Mrs. Hartley are remembered for hosting socials for faculty and graduate students at their 100 acre ranch at Snook, Texas. Under Hartley's leadership, the institute engaged in considerable interdisciplinary work with funding from agriculture and numerous projects with other disciplines. I came to Texas A&M in 1967, in August of 1967.
Bryan/College Station was just a little town. The enrollment here at Texas A&M was around 12,000 students, mostly undergraduate students, and the Corps of the Cadets were the king of the hill. Essentially, maybe there were a thousand women of that 800 were married, 200 were single. Dr. Hartley, when he would go to a national meeting and get up to give a talk at the podium, he would say: "Can you see me?" Of course, the crowd laughed because he was 4 feet 8 inches tall.
It was a very warm environment basically run by the grandfather and the grandmother, which were professor Hartley and his wife. I had the privilege of taking courses from Dr. Hartley when he was the chairman of the department there. We used to always get a big kick out of him coming to class with his tie zipped up in his trousers and on several occasions he came to class with his jacket shorts with the top of his shorts hanging out at the top of his belt and the word jockey across the shorts was exposed. For a man of his stature, we all got a big kick out of that. I came to the statistics department in 1963 from Ohio state with Dr. Hartley to finish my doctorate at my alma mater Texas A&M.
Under Dr. Hartley's great leadership, every bit of the organization changed completely, positively. He set the pace, he was genuine, down to earth, friend of students, and all the people that I've known at the stat department as I interacted over the years are like that. In 1966, The Beatles performed in Candlestick Park, Eugene Cernan completed a successful spacewalk in Gemini 9, and the Institute of Statistics moved from the Animal Industries Building, with pigs squealing down the hall, to the Olen E. Teague Building. In the 1970s, the university experienced rapid growth and the Department of Statistics moved to its current location in the John R. Blocker Building in 1981. In 1977, Apple Computer was incorporated, Jimmy Carter became president, professor Hartley retired, and was succeeded by William B.
Smith. Under Bill Smith's 9 years of leadership, great changes were made. Many notable faculty were hired, including distinguished professor Parzan. Bill Smith spearheaded the move to Blocker and increased undergraduate enrollment in statistic classes from a few hundred to over 5,000 students per year. Graduate majors increased from 30 to 65 and expansion of research funding include TEES funding along with the creation of the department computer network also occurred.
Dr. Smith stepped down in 1986 and Dr. Larry Ringer became interim department head for the next year. It was like a family environment, great environment, with much to lear. I participated in what was called the "Consulting Lab" and I think Michael Lognicker was the head of that at the time.
I really was a student who developed new theoretical methods and did a lot of theoretical statistics. But the Statistical Consulting Lab, gave me the opportunity to bring that theory to practice and to open my eyes to real world problems. I was the first department head to even have immediate access to mainframe computing. Before that, we were pencil and paper and we would write programs to take it to a computer center to run. You see what are now, people are doing their computation off of an iPad and its doing far more than we could ever do at the beginning. We were able to recruit Mandy Parson, who came in as a distinguished professor and he brought along with him a young assistant professor by the name of Joe Newton, who is now the dean of the College of Science and has been for the last 9 or 10 years.
So we hired well, many of the people that were hired on those days are still here along their career and others just five or six that are still here. I had the good fortune of working with Joe Newton as my thesis advisor and Joe himself was a big enthusiast for experimenting with computing and coding a lot of the algorithms we were practicing theoretically. So I got a first shot actually at writing a C program for a library of primitives using C and it was the first time I think for the department or general scientific computing back then to be writing things in C as opposed to more structured than computing languages.
What I recall was just the amazing freedom of implementation that was a new frontier. In 1987 the DOW closed above 2,000 for the first time, a gallon of gas was 89 cents, and the university conducted a national search resulting in Raymond J. Carroll being appointed department head. Under his leadership the department experienced a period of intense faculty recruiting, tenured and tenure factuality increasing to 22. Dr.
Carroll instituted teaching loads that are still used today. We hired 9 or 10 people in the three years that I was department head. That gave the chance for the department to grow to the size that is more representative of the size this university is and what the statistics' is. The dean, when he had recruited me, had agreed to this raise in the number of faculty. At the first executive committee meeting, he wrote that statistics will be allowed to stay at its current numbers, and so one week into my tenure I resigned. He called me up and said "you can't resign" and I said "I can, unless you let me hire the people you promised to hire." So, he did. In 1990 Microsoft released Windows 3.0 and H.
Joseph Newton succeeded Dr. Carroll as department head. The faculty had grown to 25 members with 60 to 65 graduate students. Dr. Newton launched the Statlinks news letter. In 1995 the TAMU department of statistics was ranked as the 13th best US Department of Statistics by the national research council. After serving as department head from 1990 to 1997, Dr. Newton went onto become the dean of College of Science, a position he still holds today.
But of course what any administrator really looks back at is who did I hire? A lot of people joined us in my eight years here. Dr. Wong who was a fabulous woman who had been at Cornell and she came in and within several years, she was a full professor in our department. It may be, she was the first full female professor. I was at jury duty one day and I ran into a woman I had taught named Julie Carroll and I said "what are you doing these days?" and she says "not too much" and I said "how would you like to be a lecturer in the Statistics Department?" and that 20 years ago and she's still here. She and I worked together to put the computer laboratory together, she directs our undergraduate service course, and has been just wonderful for the department.
I also was very fortunate to hire Mike Speed, who later became instrumental in the distance program that the Statistics Department has. But he played many roles in the department and the university actually. There were a lot of great memories. Ron Hawking was my major professor, we had a lot of fun doing research and I followed him and helped him start another department.
In 1998, Titanic won the Academy Award for best picture, Google Inc. was founded, and James A. Calvin was appointed department head. The department consisted of 26 faculty members with 60 to 65 graduate students. James Calvin formed the fellowship student fund, which continues to provide fellowships to outstanding students wishing to pursue a Ph. D in statistics.
Dr. Calvin stepped down in 2004 and Dr. Michael Longnecker became interim head for the next year.
One thing I can say though about my time here that kind of highlights is that we had a really thight group of students. The year I came in, we had a pretty large group. I forget the exact number, but we had at least 10 to 15 and we were all extremely close and what was great is that we had a real collaborative environment between us. We weren't computing with each other, we never taught of it that way, we all helped each other out. In 2005, YouTube was founded, Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the US Gulf Coast, and Simon J.
Sheater took over the role of department head. Under his leadership, the department has experienced numerous innovative changes. In September 2006, the Texas A&M University System board of regents approved the Master of Science degree in Statistics for distance delivery. There are currently over just 400 students taking the graduate course online and today 55 professionals have graduated from our online program with a masters degree. Also under Sheater's leadership, the department received a planned gift from a former student valued in excess of 1 million dollars. The Raymond J.
Carroll Young Investigator Award, The Anant M. Kshirsagar Endowed Fellowship Award, and The Margaret Sheater Memorial Award were also established. In 2010, US News and World Report ranked the department's graduate program 12th best among all universities. In 2012, Texas A&M Statistical Services, LP, an external company, was launched to provide planning assessments and analytical services to companies across Texas and the United States. I remember when I first came, I had a much bigger Australian accent, and some of the locals had difficult time understanding me. I found it quite funny and ironic that these people with the big Texas twangs were telling me that I had a funny accent.
I'm most proud of the fact that the status of the Department of Statistics has improved across the university and across the nation. Whenever you go to a national meeting, people are heard saying "What is A&M doing?" I will always remember fondly that during my time as department head, two professors became distinguished professors and seven other faculty members were provided early, and the thing that I'm most proud of is two senior staff members won university level awards. I was kind of crazy in hindsight to move from a harbor side department in Sydney, Australia to College Station, but it's by far the best professional decision I have ever made.
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