For nearly 40 years, Mathematics Professor Wojbor A. Woyczynski was beloved by the students who had the privilege of taking his courses at Case Western Reserve University.
Members of the university community are mourning the death last weekend of Woyczynski, whose work brought people together across campus and the world.
“Students appreciated his cheerful personality and dedication,” his friend and longtime colleague David Gurarie, professor of mathematics, said. “They would crowd his office; some musically talented students even composed a song about his teaching, which he was proud of. He maintained close relations with many of his students long after graduation.”
His legacy at Case Western Reserve University will continue through his impact on students and colleagues, and also through his widow, Liz Woyczynski, a staff member at the School of Law, and his three children, Martin (CWR ’01), Gregory (CWR ’13) and Lauren.
“I met Wojbor on a caravan—of two faculty, and two admissions staff—to recruit undergraduates in nearby cities,” Liz said. “He used to like to say, ‘I think we recruited some students, but you certainly recruited me.’”
“I appreciated his vibrant spirit and the obvious pride he had in his students and family,” Joy K. Ward, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences said. “He will be terribly missed, and his love for education will live on in the college.”
Several faculty members noted Woyczynski’s popularity among students, remembering that many PhD students requested him as their advisor. One previous doctoral student, Alexandru Belu (GRS ‘12, statistics), shared that while advising him on his thesis and professional career, Woyczynski also took the time to get to know him as a person, forming friendships with both him and his family.
“The years I spent pursuing my PhD under Dr. Woyczynski’s guidance were some of the best times of my life,” Belu said. “I recall fondly the endless hours spent in his office not only discussing mathematical proofs or the results of our latest statistical simulation, but also our shared passion for tennis, our disparate stories that brought two eastern European immigrants to Cleveland as well as the well-being of each other’s families. He was an amazing mathematician, an excellent teacher, and a great mentor and friend”
Jessica Redmon (GRS ‘19, applied mathematics) noted how much “he cared about me both as a student and a whole person,” especially as she cared for her child with a serious health issue. “I will always value his support of my research,” she said. “His loss is devastating to Case Western [Reserve] and particularly to his students.”
In addition to being a popular professor in the Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, he was a leader—sitting as department chair on two separate occasions—and an avid researcher.
With 17 published books and an 18th to be released this fall, Woyczynski was an expert on stochastic processes—a mathematical object usually defined as a family of random variables in probability theory and related fields. He established the university’s Center for Stochastic Processes and through his research collaborated on interdisciplinary projects with colleagues in the Case School of Engineering and the School of Medicine, and researchers from around the world.
When he wasn’t in the classroom or conducting research, you could find Woyczynski on the tennis court. He was an accomplished tennis player, most notably as a member of the U.S. Gordon Trophy team for several years which competes annually against Canada. Since 1982, he funnelled his passion and talents for the sport into the CWRU men’s tennis team, doubling as its faculty director and assistant coach.
“Wojbor was my first mentor here at CWRU,” Todd Wojtkowski, head coach of the men’s tennis team, said. “I could not be more grateful for all of the guidance and knowledge that he shared with me through the years. He lived an incredible life and made an impact on many of us.”
A celebration of Woyczynski’s life will be held Monday, Aug. 30, at 3:30 p.m. at Church of the Covenant (11205 Euclid Ave.).
Students who would like support during this time are encouraged to contact counseling services at 216.368.5872. This line is staffed by a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Faculty and staff can access counseling at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007; you can learn more about their programs at myimpactsolution.com.