PIMMS Founder Rosenbaum Dies at the Age of 102

Robert Rosenbaum

Robert Rosenbaum, University Professor of Mathematics and the Sciences, Emeritus, died on Dec. 3 at the age of 102.

Rosenbaum received his AB from Yale in 1936, and his PhD in mathematics from Yale in 1947. He joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1953 and taught mathematics here for 42 years until he retired in 1985.

He was a member of the “Mystic Nine” — a group of faculty in the early 1960s who were instrumental in developing Wesleyan’s graduate programs. He became dean of sciences in 1963, provost in 1965, the first-ever vice president of academic affairs and provost in 1967, and chancellor in 1970, after a brief term as acting president between Edwin Etherington and Colin Campbell. He returned to full-time teaching in 1973.

Rosenbaum founded PIMMS (Project to Increase Mastery in Mathematics and Science) in 1979, and served as director through 1994. He received many awards, including Wesleyan’s Baldwin Medal in 1985. The mayor of Middletown declared Nov. 10, 2004, as Robert A. Rosenbaum day, and he was honored with a second Robert A. Rosenbaum day on his 100th birthday in 2015. Rosenbaum was chosen to help carry the Olympic torch on its path to Atlanta in 1996, and the Rosenbaum Squash Center in the Freeman Athletic Center is named in his honor, as he was an age-group national champion several times, until he ran out of age groups to win after he hit 85.

Willie Kerr, Wesleyan Provost at the time, wrote about his colleague in 1984: “His stability in unsteady times, his disinterestedness in factional times, his clarity of vision in beclouded times, his grace in ungracious times, helped bring Wesleyan through, not just intact, but enhanced.”

Rosenbaum is survived by his three sons Robert, Joseph, and David Rosenbaum; five natural grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; seven natural great-grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.

No memorial service is planned, but the family indicated that memorial contributions can be made in Rosenbaum’s name to the Southern Poverty Law Center.