In Memory of Ralph Gordon Stanton

posted 28 April 2010

Ralph Gordon Stanton - (1923-2010)

  Ralph Gordon Stanton, Distinguished Professor, Computer Science, passed away on April 21, 2010, in St Boniface hospital, at the age of 86. Stanton always preferred an uncomplicated life, and asked for little more than a shelf of good books, his stamp collection, a little good food, and some congenial company. His 61 year academic career was marked by many achievements and honours, and he will long be remembered for his teaching, mentorship and supervisory skills, and for his philanthropic generosity.

Stanton was born October 21, 1923, the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The Stanton family made their home in southern Ontario not far from Guelph. He, the eldest of four children, was predeceased his sister Elsie and is survived by his sister Marion and brother Frank.

Stanton's impressive career speaks for his integrity, patience, perseverance, and loyalty. After graduating with a PhD (Mathematics) in 1949, he began teaching at the University of Toronto. Over his career he was a Professor, a Dean, (on more than one occasion), and served many times as Chairman or Department Head. With an impressive list of published papers, and several projects in the works, he was still actively involved in research.

His distinctions include:
PhD (h.c.) Newcastle (Australia)
PhD (h.c.) Waterloo (Canada)
PhD (h.c.) Durban (South Africa)
Distinguished Professor
Killam Laureate

Stanton held the opinion that the future of the world lies in its young people, and he was always keenly enthusiastic when he found a student who expressed curiosity and ability in Mathematics and research. Like his long-time friend Paul Erdos, Stanton was happiest when he was collaborating on a research project, and found great fulfillment in guiding bright new researchers in their careers. He was always willing to provide an honest appraisal and sincere praise when it came time for promotions and grant applications. He saw it as a duty to help active researchers grow in their chosen areas.

Through the years, he was asked to serve on many grant evaluation committees and review panels, including NSERC, and the experience gave him invaluable insight into how he might counsel serious career-minded academics in navigating the dangerous waters of research grant proposals. For this lost wisdom, he will be sorely missed.

Among his favorite philanthropic activities were three non-profit corporations that he founded and continued to administer until his death. Utilitas Mathematica Publishing was started in the early 1970s, publishing conference proceedings in Mathematics and scientific computing. UMPI was followed by the Charles Babbage Research Centre, set up to promote conferences and facilitate the publication of research. CBRC is a registered charitable organization. Ralph's ultimate enterprise was The Institute of Combinatorics and Its Applications, modeled after the IMA, but focused more in the area of Designs and Combinatorial Mathematics. The ICA is internationally recognized, with members worldwide, and annually presents awards recognizing leadership and ongoing research in Combinatorics and related areas of Mathematics.

A tribute to Stanton's foresight and organizational prowess, the ICA, CBRC, and UMPI have all seen remarkable success, and with their continuing operation his dream will continue to flourish. He never stopped working. Only hours before passing, one of his last executive orders was "Make sure the reports get in on time."

An exemplar of dedication, Ralph Gordon Stanton will be remembered by many as a pillar of the scientific community, an inspiration, and a dear friend.