Raymond Ayoub

Raymond Ayoub

1923 - 2013

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Raymond

Obituary of Raymond Ayoub

Raymond Ayoub died on January 5th with his family at his side. Ray was born on January 2nd, 1923 in Sherbrooke in the Canadian province of Quebec. His parents, George and Nazeera Ayoub had emigrated from Syria at the beginning of the century. Ray was the 11th of 12 children, many of whom were stillborn or died of childhood diseases. Ultimately, Ray was raised with an older sister, Anne, and two older brothers, Lucien and Frank. All three predeceased him. Ray was brought up in Montreal in a poor immigrant neighborhood, learning to speak Arabic, then French and finally English. He graduated from high school number one in the province of Quebec. In spite of his outstanding record, McGill University did not award him a scholarship because of prejudice against foreigners. Luckily for him, his older sister Anne was already out working and had saved enough money to pay his first semester's tuition. Nothing daunted Ray and he was an honors mathematics student at McGill as well as being the editor-in-chief of the McGill Daily, the university paper. The two years after graduation Ray spent in Goose Bay, Labrador forecasting weather for the planes that were being ferried to Britain. With the war over Ray returned to his study of mathematics. In 1950 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois; his thesis was supervised by Loo Keng Hua, a renowned Chinese mathematician. Shortly thereafter—on July 1st, 1950—he married Christine Williams, the daughter of Lloyd Williams, one of his McGill professors, and Anne Williams. Ray spent the following two years at Harvard on a Benjamin Pierce instructorship. In 1952 the Ayoubs moved to State College for Ray and Christine to join the Penn State Math Department and they remained there for the next thirty-two years. At Penn State Ray was active in both the undergraduate and the graduate programs. The department had just awarded its first Ph.D. and Ray was much involved in the development of the new graduate program. In the course of the next thirty years he authored numerous papers in number theory, and supervised over twenty doctoral theses as well as a number of masters theses. In 1959-60 with the aid of a grant from the American Math Society Ray spent the year at Harvard writing a treatise on Analytic Number Theory. It remains the definitive text on the subject. By this time the Ayoubs had two little daughters: Cynthia Anne, born in 1953; and Daphne Nazeera born in 1955. Aside from his teaching Ray was involved in administration of the department and the university: he served as acting head and head of the department on two occasions and was a member of the University Senate for some years. Several sabbaticals were spent at universities overseas: University of Frankfurt, Institut des Hautes Etudes in Burres sur Yvette and the University of Warwick. For his many contributions, sometime in the 1970s, Ray was chosen as the most valuable faculty member in the department. Ray also was involved with the work of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the American Mathematical Society (AMS). He served as Governor of the MAA for two years and Associate Secretary of the AMS for seven years. His duties as Associate Secretary were to organize meetings in various specialties. Ray was interested from earliest times in opening doors for what was at the time called the "disadvantaged." He chaired a number of AMS diversity committees, working to give opportunities to students in this country and abroad. Ray was brought up in the Greek Orthodox Church; however, he left the church in his college years, influenced by Lloyd Williams, the father of his future wife, and a devoted Quaker. Shortly after settling in State College Ray joined the State College Friends Meeting and was active in the meeting for many years. He also took an interest in the history of Friends and had several papers published. In 1984 Ray took early retirement from Penn State, to go to the Middle East and teach. During 1984-85 the Ayoubs spent the year in Saudi Arabia; Ray was a visiting professor at King Saud University in Riyadh. Two years later, in 1986-87, the Ayoubs spent the year in Bethlehem, where Ray had a Fulbright grant to Bethlehem University. It was a year before the first intifada but there were many days the university was closed by the Israelis. Subsequent years were spent in Morocco, Syria, where Ray had another Fulbright grant, and finally in Jordan-- in 1995. Starting in 1985 Ray began work on founding the retirement community that became Foxdale. He got together a group of members of the Friends meeting who were interested. Very fortunately, Ralph and Kamilla Way were interested. Ralph was a Friend and the contractor who had built the Friends meetinghouse. Furthermore, the Ways owned suitable land for the project. By 1990 "the miracle on Marylyn Avenue" was complete, viz. Foxdale Village. In 1997 the Ayoubs moved into a Foxdale apartment. Much of Ray's first days in Foxdale were spent on a book. He called the book Musings of the Masters. For the book he chose quotations from eminent mathematicians in which they spoke about mathematics—the philosophy of mathematics rather than mathematics itself. He chose mathematicians from various countries, translated the French, German and Italian into English and added a commentary for each mathematician quoted Friends and family will remember Ray for many things. Among these will be his use of language and the many pieces of poetry he was fond of quoting; his quiet sense of humor; and his concern for all those he came in contact with but especially, in recent days, for the nursing and wait staff in Foxdale. One of his concerns just before his death was that the nurses in the hospital were being adequately paid. Raymond is survived by his wife of 62 years, Christine, two daughters, Cynthia Harris (Dave) and Daphne Schreiber (Robert), four grandchildren, Benjamin Schreiber (Cara), Brian Schreiber, Christopher Harris, Julia Harris and one great-grandson, Carmelo Harris. He also has a host of nieces and great-nieces and nephews who mourn his passing. A memorial service will be held for Ray on February 9, 2013 at 2 p.m. in the Foxdale Village auditorium, 500 E. Marylyn Ave., State College, PA. The public is welcome. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Ray may be made to the Foxdale Employees' Education Fund, 500 E. Marylyn Ave., State College. PA 16801 Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at www.kochfuneralhome.com.