Don's After-Dinner Speech

I want to welcome you all to Madison and to my 65 th birthday conference. I must be getting old. I really dont remember the other 64 conferences. But I will certainly remember this one.

Thank you all for coming, and thank most of you for braving the storm last night to attend our party, which is now officially known as the Passman Candlelight Dessert Party. Obviously, cold fronts have no respect for mathematics. As I have been telling people, every party should have a theme. Of course, the lights went on as soon as the last visitor left.

There are so many people I would like to thank and let me start with the invited speakers who have given such great talks so far and who will continue to do so tomorrow.

I want you to know that these people agreed to come even before the conference obtained support. I know that Lance had started a rumor that I was cleaning my basement and putting cots there for the speakers. But anyone who knows me, would know that that was just not the case. It would take a lot more than a birthday party to get me to clean the basement.

For better or worse, the basement was able to remain as is. Due to the kindness of David Griffeath, Chairman of the UW Math Department, and the kindness of Michelle Wagner at NSA, we were able to support invited speakers, graduate students, some foreign visitors, and doughnuts and tote bags for all.

Precisely half of the nine main speakers are coauthors of mine, and those people are heroes. Surprising as it may seem, I am not always the most pleasant person to work with. I am ornery and opinionated. I have been known to make nasty comments like "There are two ways to write a paper, the way my coauthors want to do it, and the right way". Of course, none of this applies to the people at the dinner tonight.

While I am at it, I would also like to thank the speakers of the shorter talks and I apologize to all for the parallel sessions. Frankly, we were surprised and overjoyed by the number of people who wanted to speak and we tried to accommodate as many people as possible. Unfortunately, many of us start getting hungry at around 5:30 in the evening, so it was silly to go much beyond that. On the other hand, I do like to start the day early and I, and some of the janitors, would have been quite happy to attend 6AM talks. But the organizers didnt see it that way.

Speaking of the organizers, I would like to thank Jim Osterburg, Bill Chin and Declan Quinn. There are suppossedly only two good things about reaching the age of 65. You know the first and the second is that maybe someone will throw you a great party. So I lucked out on both of these. Declan and Bill and Jim initiated this project, did all the hard work, and made this conference the success it is. I cant thank them enough. Let me especially single out Jim's contribution. During the last few months, he made all the decisions, was in contact with all the speakers and participants, handled visas and finances, and dealt with the UW secretaries and the caterers. Without him, we would not be here right now. I do have a small and totally inadequate token of my appreciation for him. A blue bag to hold his red folder.

Two of the three organizers are coathors of mine and a different, but not necessarily disjoint, two of the three are my students. My students are another set of heroes. For one thing, I am very bad at suggesting thesis topics so they frequently had to scrounge on their own. I am not saying that I didnt give my students problems. Just not mathematical ones.

Now the reason I have been discussing coauthors, students, conferences and the like is simple. Coauthors, PhD students, coming together at meetings and seeing old and new mathematical friends, teaching graduate courses and even teaching calculus bring humanity into what would otherwise just be an intellectual exercise. I dont know how long any of us would survive in this business without the human contact. A large percentage of my friends are in this room tonight.

I have been very lucky in my mathematical career. I had a great teacher, Richard Brauer, and wonderful mathematical friends. Marty Isaacs and I have been close friends for over 50 years now, since high school days. I am a professor at a fine university that respects both teaching and research, and I love doing both. At the UW Math Department for the most part we put aside our minor differences and concerns and work for the good of all. It's a great place to be.

Finally, and I have saved the best for last, I would like to thank my family for their support and love: my lovely wife Marjorie of 42 years (she was a child bride), my daughter Barbara and her husband Tom who have given us two wonderful grandchildren, Sam (who is here tonight) and Rebecca, and my son Jon and his wife Pam who have given us three wonderful grandchildren, Abe, Jordan and Eve. Family pictures are of course readily available on my web page.

For those youngsters in the audience, let me say that 65 is really not so bad. Professionally, my research is going well, but I am somewhat more relaxed and less driven by it. Personally, I love my wife, my children and their spouses are my friends, and my grandchildren are my joy. What more can a man want.

Thank you all.