History

As in most universities in the U.S., UC Davis initially made the development of coursework in Statistics at Davis the province of the Department of Mathematics. The first Ph.D. level statistician on the Davis campus was Dr. George Baker, who joined the mathematics faculty in the 1930s. Baker was, by training, a mathematical statistician, but his career at Davis, spanning nearly 40 years, included a good deal of applied work, much of it supported by the UC Davis Agricultural Experiment Station. Baker was a prominent contributor to the Annals of Mathematical Statistics in its early years. In the Annals first ten years of operation, only its Editor Harry Carver published more articles in the journal than did George Baker. He was among the first statisticians honored by election as Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. His legacy includes a textbook on mathematical statistics, over one hundred published papers in theoretical and applied statistics and many contributions to collaborative work with faculty in the fields of plant science, agronomy, pomology and animal science.


Several mathematicians joined Baker in developing a Statistics curriculum. Most offerings were aimed at students in the applied sciences. Mathematicians Henry Alder and Edward Roessler were especially influential in developing an introductory course in statistics for the general campus. Their textbook for this course was used at Davis for many years and was adopted quite widely across the U.S., as there were rather few comparable books in the 1950s and 1960’s when this book written and refined through multiple editions. In the 1960s and 1970s, this introductory course was offered as Mathematics 13 at UC Davis and was taken by approximately 3000 students per year. Prior to the formation of an independent unit in statistics, a number of other prominent statisticians joined the Davis mathematics faculty. Howard Weiner, an applied probabilist with a degree from Stanford, joined the math department in the 1960s and served in that department until his retirement. Peter John was a member of the mathematics faculty at Davis in the 1960s. In the 1970s, a small cadre of young statisticians joined the department, including Max Layard, George Duncan, John Moore, Francisco Samaniego, Alan Fenech, Cory Atwood, Ronald Glaser, Norman Matloff and Jessica Utts. John Van Ryzin joined the Mathematics Department in 1977, but left to take a position at the Rand Corporation at the end of that academic year. During his year at Davis, Van Ryzin authored a formal proposal for the establishment of an independent unit in statistics in response to the recommendations of a campus committee organized to study the need for such a unit at Davis.


In July, 1978, Francisco Samaniego, then an Associate Professor of Mathematics, was appointed as Faculty Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and charged with the task of coordinating matters dealing with the formation of a separate academic unit in Statistics. Discussions about the most appropriate organizational structure for the new unit had been going on for several years. In the end, it was decided that Statistics should be established as an Intercollege Division. Such units are generally larger than individual departments, often having several separate departments within them. The Intercollege Division of Statistics was formed as a unitary academic unit which would function as an ordinary department in most matters, but would be overseen by a “Work Group of Deans”, ensuring that the Division maintained ongoing ties and relationships to various schools and colleges. The Deans of Letters and Science, Agriculture, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine were asked to oversee the Division of Statistics, with Larry Andrews, Dean of Letters and Science, serving as the Chair of the Workgroup. Professor Samaniego completed the design of the new unit, composing proposals for the establishment of the M. S. and Ph. D. degrees in Statistics, a Graduate Group in Statistics and the Statistical Laboratory, the Division’s consulting arm. The Intercollege Division of Statistics officially came into existence on January 1, 1979. Professor Samaniego was appointed as Acting Associate Dean of the unit.

Charter Members of the
Intercollege Division of Statistics, 1979

Fenech

Glaser

Matloff

Samaniego

Utts

Blum

Wiggins



The first six months of operation of the unit was largely devoted to making preparations for the offering of a full curriculum in academic year 1979 - 1980. Key among the initial priorities of the unit was the recruitment of a senior-level statistician to join the unit as head and Associate Dean. A broadly-based search committee chaired by Professor Samaniego considered an impressive list of candidates and was fortunate to recruit Professor Julius Blum as Associate Dean, beginning July 1, 1979. Blum was a Berkeley Ph. D. from the early 50’s with a strong research reputation in probability and statistics and with a successful experience as Chair of the department of mathematics and statistics at the University of New Mexico. Further, he had recently completed a tour of duty as a program director at the National Science Foundation. On paper, and in his interview at Davis, he seemed to be an ideal candidate. Professor Jack Kiefer, then at Berkeley, called several times in the course of the search and graciously offered to provide advice, as needed, on the recruitment effort. When asked for his opinion following our interview process, he said emphatically: “Blum is a winner! You can’t do better than Julius Blum.”


Blum arrived in Davis in July of 1979. Besides taking over the general administration of the unit, he began the process of recruiting additional faculty. There were six faculty members at Davis who transferred to full-time positions in the Intercollege Division of Statistics: Fenech, Glaser, Matloff, Samaniego and Utts from the Mathematics Department and Alvin Wiggins from the School of Veterinary Medicine. Professor Wiggins was appointed Director of the Statistical Laboratory. Blum was a talented, extroverted, fair-minded academic who infused the unit with energy and activity. He led by example, maintaining an active research program of high quality, involving himself in many collaborative research projects and building consensus about the new unit’s direction. Arguably, his greatest contribution to the unit was the strong priority he gave to recruiting the best possible new members. In his first year, he chaired search committees that resulted in the recruitment of two outstanding senior scholars, P.K. Bhattacharya from the University of Arizona and Robert Shumway from George Washington University, to the Division of Statistics at Davis. Tragically and unexpectedly, Julius Blum suffered a massive heart attack and passed away in April of 1982. His colleagues from that day still miss the man. Stealing a line from the movie “Something’s Gotta Give”, he was a man to love! Three of his colleagues – Samaniego, Bhattacharya and Shumway – served in succession as Acting Associate Dean following Blum’s death. The Julius Blum Award has been presented annually since 1983 to an outstanding Statistics graduate student.


Professor George Roussas joined the Division of Statistics in July, 1985, as Associate Dean and as Chair of the Graduate Group in Statistics. He served in these two capacities for 14 years – an era marked by dynamic leadership, well-considered growth and a general expansion of the unit’s reputation and influence both on the campus and beyond. In a study sponsored by the National Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada and disseminated in 1992, the UC Davis Statistics group ranked 14th among 300 Statistics institutes worldwide in terms of research productivity. In a follow-up study published in the Canadian Journal of Statistics in 2002, the UC Davis Statistics Department ranked 4th, among 202 Statistics institutes surveyed, in the category of published papers per capita in “the top 25” journals in the field. Highlights of Roussas’s tenure as Associate Dean include the doubling of the size of the faculty and of the curriculum offered, the development of a biostatistics component to the Statistics graduate program and a whole-scale revamping of the graduate curriculum and qualifying examination process in Statistics. Professor Roussas was recognized by his peers for his myriad contributions to the statistics profession by the Festschrift "Asymptotics in Statistics and Probability: Papers in Honor of George G. Roussas" published in 2000 and by a workshop held in his honor in May, 2001. Roussas continues his teaching and research at Davis, serving as Distinguished Professor of Statistics.


Recent history of Statistics includes changes in its organizational structure. It abandoned its designation as an Intercollege Division in 1999 and became a Department within the newly formed Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the College of Letters and Sciences. The title of Associate Dean was replaced by the traditional title of chair, a position that would be filled on a rotating basis. Professor Jane-Ling Wang served as Department Chair from 1999 to 2003. She presided over the planning of the unit’s move to the new Mathematical Sciences Building, a move that was finally accomplished in 2005. During her tenure, the Graduate Group in Statistics was replaced by the departmental Graduate Program in Statistics, and the Graduate Group in Biostatistics was formed. The healthy coexistence of separate graduate degree programs in Statistics and Biostatistics in one department is a rarity, and Professor Wang’s planning and foresight contributed considerably to its success. Professor Hans-Georg Müller provided the principal leadership in this latter development, authoring the proposal for graduate degree programs in Biostatistics and serving generously and effectively as Chair of the Biostatistics Graduate Group from 2001 to 2007. Professor Rudolf Beran served as Department Chair from 2003 to 2007. The signal accomplishment of Professor Beran’s tenure was, without doubt, the recruitment of Peter Hall to the Davis faculty as a “target of excellence”. Professor Hall accepted a 25% appointment at Davis, beginning in 2005 and spends Spring Quarters (April – June) in Davis, teaching one course per year. The unit recruited five additional new faculty members during Professor Beran’s tenure (Paul, Peng, Pollard, Sen and Temple Lang) but also experienced three retirements (Fenech, Shumway and Mack) and, regrettably, two resignations (Johnson and Christianini) during this period. The Graduate Program in Statistics was reviewed during Professor Beran’s tenure as chair, and received very high marks on all counts. Professor Beran also planned for a seamless and relatively painless transition from Kerr Hall to the Department’s new home in the Mathematical Sciences Building.


The Davis Statistics faculty has been very active professionally, participating in the organization of meetings and presenting numerous invited talks around the world. Some notable honors since the year 2000 include: Professor Hall received the ASA Gottfried E. Noether Senior Researcher Award in 2007, Professors Müller and Wang each gave IMS Medallion Lectures at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Salt Lake City in 2007, Professor Hall delivered the Wald Lectures at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in Rio de Janeiro and Professor Beran received the Memorial Medal of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Prague, in 2006 in recognition of his sustained and effective efforts to encourage and support statistical research in the Czech Republic. Two Statistics faculty members have served as editors of major journals in the field. Professor Wang served as Co-Editor of Statistica Sinica from July 2002 to June 2005. Professor Samaniego served as Editor of the Theory and Methods Section of the Journal of the American Statistical Association from January 2002 to December 2005. Professor Utts and Professor Samaniego received Distinguished Teaching Awards from the Davis Academic Senate in 1982 and 2002, respectively. In 2004, Professor Samaniego was honored as the eighteenth annual recipient of the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement, a prize accompanied by an honorarium thought to be the largest of its kind in the U. S.


Several UC Davis Statistics faculty have published textbooks and research monographs in probability and statistics. Those at an advanced (graduate) level include Linear and Generalized Linear Mixed Models and Their Applications (Jiang, 2007), System Signatures and their Applications in Engineering Reliability (Samaniego, 2007), An Introduction to Measure-Theoretic Probability (Roussas, 2005), Time Series Analysis and Its Applications (Shumway and Stoffer, 2000), The Bootstrap and Edgeworth Expansion (Hall, 1992), Asymptotic Theory for Bootstrap Methods in Statistics (Ducharme and Beran, 1991), Introduction to the Theory of Coverage Processes (Hall, 1988), Nonparametric Regression Analysis of Longitudinal Data (Mueller, 1988), Rates of Convergence in the Central Limit Theorem (Hall, 1982), Martingale Limit Theory and its Application (Hall and Heyde, 1980), and Contiguity of Probability Measures: Some Applications in Statistics (Roussas, 1972).


Professor Wolfgang Polonik was appointed Chair of the Department of Statistics on July 1, 2007. The department looks forward with pleasure and optimism to his years of service in this capacity. Good luck Wolfgang!