The Department of Mathematical Sciences mourns the passing of Dr. Cecil C. Rousseau on Friday, April 10, 2020, at the age of 82. Cecil – affectionately known as ‘C Squared R’ by many of his friends – came to the University of Memphis (then Memphis State University) in 1970, and started having an impact from the beginning. He was a pioneer who was instrumental in helping to establish a research agenda and reputation for the Department, and for the University for that matter.
Cecil – a physicist by formal training – was a problem solver extraordinaire, and for many years was Coach of the United States Mathematics Olympiad Team as well as Managing Editor for the Problems Section of the SIAM Review. In recognition of his abilities, achievements, and efforts, in 2012 he received the Paul Erdős Award from the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions. His excellence in research was one of the main reasons why Paul Erdős visited the University of Memphis on a regular basis. He was one of the very few mathematicians whose Erdős and Ulam numbers were 1.
Cecil was always open to talk about mathematics, and provided numerous students over the years with special one-to-one courses in addition to his teaching responsibilities. He was also a valuable and versatile resource for faculty members, who often went to him to ask questions and discuss problems. This frequently occurred on Friday afternoons. If he didn’t have an answer right away, he would have an answer on Monday or provide some valuable insights into the problem.
Cecil's willingness and availability to help people were not restricted to mathematics. He was a very kind, generous, and gentle person – a true family man – who was highly intelligent and had a big heart to match. His attention was available to anyone in need, as was his generosity. True to his nature, he never spoke unkindly of anyone.
Cecil also had a special cooking talent about which most people did not know. Gumbo. Probably the best in Memphis. He frequently served up andouille sausage with chicken, rabbit, or squirrel gumbo and an unbeatable roux. He had a great sense of humor, so when friends would tease him that racoons and possums were not safe in his neighborhood, he was always quick to laugh with a gleam in his eyes. Cecil also loved numerous genres of music, ranging from classical and jazz to blues and country, and another talent about which many people were not aware was his singing. Although he was regarded as a quiet man, this reputation would be contradicted when his beautiful bass voice would resonate from church or other choirs for which he was a regular participant.
Dr. Cecil C. Rousseau, a friend, a scholar, a resource, an incredible and multi-talented person, will be greatly missed. An obituary is given in the Daily Memphian.