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World’s Highest Mathematics Honor Goes to Retired U of M Professor

For release: June 26, 2012
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901-678-2843

Dr. Cecil Rousseau
Dr. Cecil Rousseau
Dr. Cecil C. Rousseau, a retired University of Memphis mathematics professor, has been named one of two winners of the mathematics world’s highest honor, the Paul Erdös Award.  Rousseau shares this year’s honor with Dr. Paul Vaderlind of Stockholm University in Sweden.

The biennial award, which will be presented next month in Seoul, Korea, by the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions, is for sustained and distinguished contribution to the enrichment of mathematics education.  It is strictly limited to no more than three recipients every two years and is awarded only after extensive refereeing and assessment of many nominated candidates.  Previous winners have come from countries on virtually every continent.

Rousseau earned his doctorate in physics from Texas A&M University in 1968, then taught physics at Baylor University for two years.  In 1970, he changed universities and disciplines, joining the mathematics faculty of what was then Memphis State University.  He retired from the University of Memphis in 2008.

At the U of M, Rousseau was presented a Meritorious Faculty Award in 1992 and was named a Dunavant Professor in 1998.

His research has been primarily in graphical Ramsey theory, but he has also delved into combinatorics, physics, applied analysis, and mathematical statistics.  Most of his work has been collaborative, including 35 papers with Paul Erdös, a well-respected Hungarian mathematician.

Rousseau’s reputation is that of an avid creator and solver of mathematical problems.  He has contributed, solved, or edited problems for national and international competitions and journals.  He has also been active in many national and international mathematics-related organizations.

Of particular importance has been his leadership of the United States Olympiad Math Team; he has been involved with the team since its first year of competition, 1974.  Since that time, he has been a member of the USA Math Olympiad committee and was chairman of the committee 1992-1997 and 2004-2008.  He has also served as the committee’s leader, deputy leader, deputy chief coordinator, and team coach.  He served as problems captain in 1995, when the Olympiad was in Canada; and in 2001, when the United States was the host, Rousseau was chair of the Problems Committee and chief coordinator.

Rousseau’s collaborator Erdös was born in Hungary in 1913.  He travelled extensively, disseminating mathematical challenges to researchers and professors in countries around the world.  He wrote or co-authored 1,500 articles and books and collaborated with more mathematicians than any other person in history, becoming one of the most respected mathematicians of the 20th century.  He died in 1996.

From the 1970s until his death, Erdös was a frequent visitor to the University of Memphis.  As a perpetual honor to Erdös, the University hosts the annual Erdös Lecture Series.

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Last Updated: 6/26/12