Obituary: Jerry Spanier

Great-grandfather, longtime CGU math professor, researcher, author

Former Claremont resident and Claremont Graduate University faculty member Jerry Spanier died March 1 in Irvine, California at the age of 93.

He is survived by his children, Adrienne Domash and Ruth Malkin of Irvine, and Steve Spanier of Santa Rosa, California; seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

His beloved wife of more than 70 years, Bernice (Bunny) Spanier, predeceased him in late 2022, as did his sister Leila Rutstein in 2012, and his brother Edwin Spanier, in 1996.

Born in 1930 in Saint Paul to Anne Goldman Spanier and David H. Spanier, his formative years were spent developing what would become a lifelong love of math and playing a variety of games, many with his brother. He was interested in baseball and wanted to be a pitcher. Ed, on the other hand, was more interested in chess, so the brothers made a deal where they would play catch for a period of time in exchange for two games of chess. Soon, Jerry was playing chess very well and eventually competed on his college chess team. It was at the University of Minnesota where he met Bernice Hoffman.

The couple courted for a short time before marrying in 1952 and moving to Chicago, where he eventually earned both an M.S. and a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Chicago. He worked in the industry for 16 years at institutions such as Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory and Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as the Rockwell International Science Center in Thousand Oaks, California.

In 1971 he realized his dream of teaching by accepting a post at Claremont Graduate University (then the Claremont Graduate School). In addition to his years as a full professor at CGU, his tenure also included stints as vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty. While at CGU he helped establish and direct the mathematics clinic, a practicum course for applied mathematics students. He was also the founding director of the Claremont Research Institute of Applied Mathematical Sciences. He remains a CGU professor emeritus of mathematics.

He worked into his 90s as a mathematics researcher at the University of California at Irvine’s Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, where he was a leader in analyzing mathematical models of light/tissue interactions, particularly in the transport regime, and developing mathematical models and computational strategies for implementation.

He co-authored three books: “Monte Carlo Principles and Neutron Transport Problems” (with Eli M. Gelbard), “The Fractional Calculus: Theory and Applications of Differentiation and Integration to Arbitrary Order” (with Keith B. Oldham), and “An Atlas of Functions” (also with Keith B. Oldham).

He served on several editorial boards, including Mathematical and Computer Modelling, Fractional Calculus and Applied Analysis, Monte Carlo Methods and Applications, Journal of Statistical Physics, and International Journal of Mathematical Modelling. He was also a reviewer for numerous U.S. and international grant agencies and journals and a Fulbright senior research scholar, teaching and studying at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

“Although Jerry valued and took great pride in his professional life, his personal life was equally rich and joyful,” his family shared. His many hobbies included reading, swimming, music, chess, guitar, Chinese brush painting, and golf. He also developed a strong spiritual practice under the guidance of his teacher, Sri Eknath Easwaran. A lifelong sports fan, he followed all Minnesota and Chicago teams, to which he demonstrated loyalty even after moving to Southern California in 1966. Once a southland resident, he became an avid fan of the Dodgers and Lakers. Watching these teams brought much joy (and occasional suffering!) late in his life.

“Jerry was a dedicated husband, brother and father with a sharp intellect and ready wit,” his family added. “Extremely personable, he easily developed and maintained lasting friendships throughout his life. Colleagues, friends, and family will miss him very much and forever remember him as a warm, brilliant, and compassionate man.”

Memorial details are pending.


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