Agnes Scott College

Deborah Tepper Haimo

Deborah Haimo

July 1, 1921 - May 17, 2007

Deborah Haimo was born in Odessa, Ukraine. She was raised in the British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel) and came to the United States at the age of 11. She attended the Girl's Latin School, a public college-preparatory school in Boston restricted to women. She entered Radcliffe College in 1939 with a pronounced love of mathematics, but no idea what she could do with such a major. She did not want to go into teaching at the high school level because at that time female teachers could not keep their teaching positions in the Boston public schools if they were to marry. Nevertheless, she did major in mathematics, and was allowed the opportunity to attend Harvard mathematics classes after her sophomore year. She graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe in 1943 with both an A.B. and A.M. degree.

Haimo then spent a year as acting head of physical and mathematical sciences at Lake Erie College, followed by another year as an instructor at Northeastern University. From 1948 to 1961 she was an instructor and lecturer at Washington University. She moved to Southern Illinois University as a lecturer, then was promoted to assistant professor when she received her Ph.D. in 1964, and later to associate professor. In 1968 she joined the department of mathematical sciences at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, as a full professor, becoming department chair a year later. She spent the academic year 1972-73 as a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. Her husband, Franklin Tepper Haimo, died in 1982. After her retirement from UMSL in 1992, Haimo moved to California and became active in the department of mathematics at the University of California, San Diego, participating in seminars and social events.

Haimo resumed her graduate studies in mathematics after more than a 10-year hiatus raising her five children and while teaching at Washington University and Southern Illinois. She received her Ph.D. in 1964 from Harvard University with a dissertation on "Integral Equations Associated With Hankel Convolutions." This work contained a study of convolution transforms on [0,∞) associated with the Hankel transform analogous to that made by I. I. Hirschman, Jr. and D. V. Widder for the familiar convolution on the line associated with the Fourier transform. Widder was her official advisor at Harvard, but Hirschman of Washington University suggested her thesis problem and provided guidance, particularly during the summer of 1963 when Haimo was a research assistant at Washington University. Haimo published over 40 mathematical papers, the first appear in the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society in 1956 on the topic "A note on convex mappings".

Deborah Haimo was a long-time member of the Mathematical Association of America and served as its president in 1991 and 1992. In 1997 she was presented with the Yueh-Gin Gung and Dr. Charles Y. Hu Award for Distinguished Service to the MAA. The following article recognizing that award is reprinted from The American Mathematical Monthly, Volume 104, Number 2 (February 1997), 97-98, with permission from the Mathematical Association of America.

Yueh-Gin Gung and Dr. Charles Y. Hu Award for Distinguished Service to Deborah Tepper Haimo
Carole B. Lacampagne
Copyright The Mathematical Association of America 1997

From her early days at Radcliffe, studying with Hassler Whitney, and later meeting her husband-to-be in a Harvard class taught by Saunders Mac Lane, Deborah Tepper Haimo has had a love affair with mathematics. Her dedication to the MAA began soon after Frank and Deborah Haimo's marriage when they both joined the Association. It culminated in her becoming president of the MAA in 1992. She continues to be an active and influential member of the mathematics community.

All presidents of the MAA are called upon to provide a heavy service effort. But Professor Haimo has gone beyond the normal presidential service by her reorganization of the cumbersome MAA committee structure, by her personal devotion to obtaining the recognition of outstanding teaching in each MAA Section of the country, by creating the national awards bearing the name of her late husband and herself, and by encouraging the participation of women in mathematics at every level and in the Association. These are tremendously valuable achievements, worthy of the Gung-Hu Award.

Deborah Haimo recognized well before her presidency the need for reorganization of the MAA's committee structure and chaired a committee that devised the Coordinating Council system currently being used. This new structure made order out of chaos, and it is difficult to imagine carrying on with the old structure, given the complexity of the MAA today.

Professor Haimo's dedication to excellence in teaching is clear in her own well-honed lessons and in her innovative, applications-oriented teacher enhancement program for high school teachers of mathematics. Again, with typical insight, she called attention to the fact that although the Association has always claimed to value good teaching, there was nothing in the awards structure of the organization to highlight this. Outstanding expository writing (the Chauvenet, Ford, Allendoerfer, Polya, Hasse, and Beckenbach awards) and service (the Gung-Hu Award, Certificates for Meritorious Service) are appreciated and rewarded, but there was no particular recognition for excellence in teaching. She proceeded to stir things up (quietly, as is her style) and the Association soon established sectional awards for teaching, along with three national awards.

Just to make sure that new teaching awards are likely to continue, she initiated a significant gift to the Association. This prompted the Board of Governors to name the national awards the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Awards for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. These are now firmly established as the prestigious awards for teaching and the list of winners is indeed distinguished.

Even prior to her presidency, Professor Haimo served the Association for many years on many important committees (the Committee on the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics, the 1975 Nominating Committee, the Program Committee for the 1977 Meetings in St. Louis, the Committee on the Participation of Women in Mathematics, to name a few) and as a member-at-large of the Board of Governors (1974-76). In 1986-87 she was First Vice President and in 1988-1989 she sewed as chair of the Search Committee for an Executive Director. She is now chair of both the Nominating Committee and the Development Committee.

As a woman mathematician, Professor Haimo has not only been a role model for female students, but has written and spoken energetically about the need to give young women the opportunity to study mathematics to the limit of their abilities and interests by making sure that the climate in mathematics departments and elsewhere, is supportive, welcoming, and encouraging to them. At the same time, she has been insistent that female students, like their male counterparts, be challenged to achieve at the very highest mathematical levels, at every step from kindergarten through graduate school.

Her undergraduate years were spent at Radcliffe College, which gave her its alumnae Recognition Award in 1993. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in classical analysis at Harvard University. Although she had no connection beforehand with Franklin and Marshall College, she received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science at a special spring convocation in 1991. After faculty appointments at Washington University (St. Louis) and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, she took a position at the University of Missouri-St. Louis where she served as chair of the Department for some years and eventually became Professor Emerita. She has held visiting appointments at the Technion in Israel and at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, as a member in 1972-73 and later as a trustee of the Association of Members.

Always interested in educational matters, aside from research supported by federal agencies, she received numerous grants for teacher education programs at the University of Missouri. She has served on numerous national and international panels and committees: mathematician for an Agency for International Development Science Team to evaluate graduate programs at Seoul National University (1974), the ETS College Level Examinations Program Committee (1986-89), the MAA/NCTM National Selection Committee for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching (1988), to name a few.

At the same time, she has never abandoned her role as a research mathematician, having published over 45 papers in classical analysis, in particular, on generalizations of the heat equation, special functions, and harmonic analysis. She has served as an associate editor of the SIAM Journal on Mathematical Analysis and the American Mathematical Monthly. She now holds an appointment at the University of California, San Diego, where she lives right near the ocean that she dearly loves.

Always active in educational matters outside mathematics as well as within, she served as a trustee of Radcliffe College between 1975 and 1981, and she has just completed her tenure as a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard University. She is active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and after serving on statewide committees in Missouri and Connecticut, since settling in California, she was recently appointed by the State Board of Education to the Mathematics Framework and Criteria Committee, a major assignment. Her contributions to mathematics and to education continue at a breathtaking pace.

Professor Haimo is the mother of five very talented offspring and has nine grandchildren and one great grandchild. An active sportswoman, she is an enthusiastic tennis player. She has participated and won many medals in track events at Senior Olympics in Missouri and Illinois, and even won a gold medal for racewalking recently in San Diego.


  1. Obituary, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 2, 2007.
  2. Archive Records, University of Missouri-St. Louis Archives
  3. Deborah Tepper Haimo, "In Her Own Words," AMS Notices, Vol. 38, No. 7, Sept. 1991 (Reprinted at AWM web site)
  4. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  5. Author Profile at zbMath
  6. Mathematics Genealogy Project
Photo Credit: Photo used with permission of the University of Missouri-St. Louis Archives