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Former dean and mathematician Halsey Royden dead at 64
STANFORD -- Halsey Royden, professor of mathematics and longtime dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, died Sunday night of a heart attack. Royden was a month shy of his 65th birthday.
Royden was active in Stanford faculty governance for most of his career and served as dean of the university's largest school from 1973 to 1981, one of the longest terms in Stanford history. He was dean during the time Stanford inaugurated a new Western culture requirement for undergraduates and began rewarding faculty for their teaching abilities.
He was associate dean from 1962-1965 and acting dean from 1968- 1969. Royden also was active in the Faculty Senate, the Advisory Board, and the Academic Council.
Royden was born in Phoenix and graduated from Stanford in 1948. He received his master's degree, also from Stanford in 1949, and his doctorate from Harvard in 1951, returning to Stanford to teach.
Royden was editor of the Pacific Journal of Mathematics for five years and a Guggenheim Fellow. He also was chairman of the mathematics department and served as the department's historian.
His specialty was complex variables, concentrating on Riemann surfaces, multisheeted surfaces invented to study functions of complex variables. He made a number of contributions to the theory underlying these variables as well as Teichmueller spaces, spaces whose points are Riemann surfaces. Royden wrote the standard first-year textbook widely used for many years since the 1950s, which has gone through several editions.
Quoting a friend, he once said he does mathematics "for the begrudged admiration of a few select colleagues."
During the time he was dean, he said: "I really look upon myself as a somewhat unfortunate faculty member doing a job I wish someone else were doing. But I think it's important that it be done by a faculty member and I am depending on the support of the faculty."
He served on the Executive Committee of the National Research Council's Mathematical Science Division and on the National Science Foundation's Advisory Council on Research.
Royden was involved in a number of difficult tenure decisions as dean. Associates said he was concerned about fairness and justice in these matters and believed that the procedures set up to handle these tenure cases should be followed as they provided the structure that best assured fairness.
On the other hand, he could get around the same procedures he advocated when he thought they were being applied thoughtlessly.
He resigned as dean to return to research and teaching. He was working on a book on linear algebra at his death.
The current dean, Ewart Thomas, in a letter to the faculty, said Royden's death "has . . . robbed us of the brilliance, wisdom and experience of a dear friend and colleague. . . .
"I still remember my excitement in 1974 when I learned that the textbook in the course I was auditing was written by the dean of the School of Humanities and Science. That book, Real Analysis, is the elegant and digestible introduction to pure mathematics that graduate students all over the world have sampled, if not devoured. And it was a challenge to my limiting stereotypes to accept that one who pioneered the abstractions of complex analysis and differential geometry would be entrusted with the concrete task of leading a complex and diverse organization.
"However, Halsey's intellectual interests were broad," Thomas said, "and there was little discontinuity between the scholarly and the administrative facets of his life - the incisive analysis and rigor expected in the former was very much in evidence in the latter."
"He was a paragon of institutional commitment, and we are all greatly in his debt," Thomas said.
Royden had a heart valve replacement several years ago and until this summer was in good health. Fibrillation problems that began this summer had been controlled by medication.
He is survived by his wife, Jinx, his daughters, Leigh Royden and Constance Royden of Boston, and a son, Halsey, of Columbia, Md., and four grandchildren.
Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. Thursday at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Menlo Park. Burial will be private.
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