Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science celebrates 50 years of excellence and prepares for many more

Friday, June 12, 2015

Professor Robert "Bob" Hogg
Professor and Chair Emeritus
Robert "Bob" Hogg

In 1965, a brilliant professor in the University of Iowa Department of Mathematics named Robert “Bob” Hogg—who had earned his doctorate from the UI in 1950—helped create a brand-new department at the university dedicated to his disciplinary specialty, statistics and actuarial science. Hogg was its founding chair and served in that capacity for 19 of his astonishing 51 years of active teaching at the UI.

Fifty years later, when 130 of Hogg’s colleagues, protégés, friends, and admirers came together to celebrate the semi-centennial anniversary of the Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science with a two-day symposium on April 24-25, 2015, Hogg’s leadership was still very much present—even though he had passed away in 2014 at the age of 90.

As Raúl Curto, Professor of Mathematics and Executive Associate Dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, said at the event while discussing the department's achievements, “Paramount in all of this is the towering figure of Professor Bob Hogg, who with his cheerful and positive attitude served as a role model for all of us who had the privilege of knowing him.”

The department that Hogg helped establish with his mentor and friend, Professor Allen Craig, had much to celebrate at the symposium. From its humble beginnings with just five faculty members, it grew by Spring 2015 to include 14 tenured or tenure-track faculty (who are leaders nationally and internationally in their disciplines); eight lecturers and adjunct faculty; four affiliated faculty; and 390 students, including 14 doctoral candidates, 77 master’s-level students, and 301 undergraduates. Among many other honors, since 2009, the department has been designated one of a handful of Centers for Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries.

The department has long-established close ties with the insurance industry, which has a large presence in the state of Iowa, and its faculty collaborate with departments in disciplines throughout the university, bringing statistical rigor and expertise to the study of a wide range of disciplines.

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean Chaden Djalali noted at the symposium that the department has become essential to the mission of the college and the university. UI President Sally Mason seconded that assertion, saying, “As a scientist and a university administrator, I absolutely know how crucial statistics can be to teaching and learning and scholarship, especially at a major research university like the University of Iowa. We’re very fortunate that the department has such a long history of excellence and achievement.”

The symposium wasn’t just an opportunity to celebrate the department’s past, however. As Professor and Chair Joseph Lang said to open the gathering, it was also a time to focus on its exciting present and its bright future.

Students in front of Old Capitol
Student awardees from left to right: Junga Seo, Dongyu Xu,
Kenneth Clancy, Steven Manning, Zongsheng Sun, Raid Jarjour,
Weijuan Luo, John Crowley and Professor Joseph B. Lang

There were thirteen invited talks by national and international leaders in the discipline, moderated by departmental faculty. Professor Emeritus Richard Dykstra (PhD 1968, statistics) presented two Hogg and Craig Lectures, named for the department’s founders. Six faculty members showcased their current research. Fifteen graduate students presented their research at a poster session. And students were presented with awards for outstanding performance in six categories.

The group also traveled on two buses—“captained” by two of Bob Hogg’s children, Allen Hogg (BA 1985, philosophy; MBA 1997) and Mary Hogg (PhD 1996, education)—to the Amana Colonies for a banquet, which was generously supported by a gift from Robert H. Taylor (MS 1952, mathematics) of Solon, Iowa.

Though Bob Hogg wasn’t at the Ox Yoke Inn in person for the banquet, you can be sure that he was there in spirit—telling and retelling stories, cherishing old friends and colleagues, and encouraging the scholars who will carry on his legacy for the next 50 years in the University of Iowa Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science.

(Download the complete symposium program.)

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.