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 rest, went 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.

            Caroline Melles

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Created: Nov. 17, 2000. Last modified: Nov. 17, 2000. URL:http://www.math.neu.edu/~michler/Melles-test