Dr. Ruth Michler
Contributed by Caroline Melles, Assoc Prof., U. S. Naval Academy.
For Ruth, November 7, 2000
Ruth and I met in the spring of 1997, at the Fields Institute, when we
shared an office for a few days and became instant friends. Ruth had
driven from Texas to Toronto in a day, hardly stopping for food or rest.
She paused briefly in Toronto, then was off to Kingston, to visit
friends at Queen's University. We talked about everything -
mathematics, friends, teaching, houses, running, and especially
being a woman in mathematics. When I talked to her it was like talking
to a best friend I had known all my life. We would start in the middle
of a conversation, and jump from topic to topic.
North Texas was a big change for Ruth after graduate school in Berkeley.
She talked of life in
Denton, and her students, and taking up running. She would mention
running 100 miles as if it was nothing but scenery with an occasional
stretch of boredom.
Ruth was working hard to achieve tenure and make her place in the
mathematical world. One day she wrote to me to see if I would be
interested in helping her to organize a special session at an AMS
meeting. That was the first of three sessions which we organized, one
of which resulted in a book of proceedings. These are projects which I
would never have attempted without Ruth's initiative and energy. Ruth
was fearless and full of ideas. She traveled everywhere and talked to
everyone. She did not hesitate to take on any project, or ask any
mathematician to contribute to our sessions. She thought a meeting
should be more than just a sequence of short presentations. She
organized social events and problem sessions and lengthened the talks so
that people could discuss their work in more depth. We invited the
mathematicians we would most like to hear talk, and to my amazement,
many of them accepted! Our sessions succeeded far beyond my
expectations - not in numbers, but in the level of mathematical
discussion and the sense of mathematical community. It was as if by the
sheer force of her personality, she could take any idea and make it
happen. She fought for and won her tenure, then hardly stopping to
immediately to a research position at Northeastern, and still looking to
the future, continued to apply for research positions and made plans for
bigger and more international conferences. I miss her every
day. She was a great inspiration to me and always will be.
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