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Victor LaRue Klee, 1971-1972 MAA President

Born: September 18, 1925, San Francisco, California
Died: August 18, 2007, Lakewood, Ohio

Victor LaRue Klee was a professor at the University of Washington known for his influential, wide-ranging research, teaching, and service to professional organizations.

Presidency: 1971-1972

Klee was asked what accomplishments as president he was most proud of. He responded,

During the Vietnam war, there seemed a very real danger that the MAA and AMS would be seriously weakened by resignations on the part of mathematicians who felt that the organizations were not dealing appropriately with their concerns. I particularly remember an MAA meeting at which, when entering the MAA business meeting, I was accosted by protestors with such rhetorical questions as "Are you going in there with those pigs?" Before that business meeting, I had spent a lot of time studying parliamentary procedure, in the determination that everyone should not only have a fair hearing, but that they should realize that they had had a fair hearing. If my memory is correct, my best service to the MAA was in conducting that meeting, explaining the parliamentary rules and acting according to them. I was much pleased, after the meeting, when even some of the "firebrands" complimented me on my handling of the meeting and said that, although not everything had been decided in the way that they had hoped, they did feel that they had been fairly treated rather than being denied their "day in court."

He was also known for the "Klee Policy" of forbidding deficits. He was the first president since A.W. Tucker in 1962 to have had a doctoral thesis advisor other than R.L. Moore.

Education and Career

1945 Pomona College, B.A. in mathematics and chemistry
1949 University of Virginia, Ph.D., advised by E.J. McShane

After completing his Ph.D., Klee taught at the University of Virginia as an assistant professor for and spent a year at the Institute for Advanced Study before joining the faculty at the University of Washington in 1953, where he spent most of his academic career. He was a member of the University of Washington mathematics department for almost 54 years.

Klee was a prolific researcher, having published nearly 250 papers. His broad research interests included geometry, convexity, optimization, algorithms, functional analysis, and combinatorics. He may be considered one of the founding fathers of the theory of convex polytopes for his influential 1960s papers and for mentoring several students in that field.

Klee was also known as an excellent teacher, both as a mentor and as a lecturer. He supervised 36 doctoral theses: 34 in mathematics, one in applied mathematics, and one in computer science.

In the MAA, Klee served on the board of governors from 1967 to 1978 and as first vice president in 1968-70. He won three MAA awards for excellent expository articles: the Lester R. Ford Award in 1972 and the Carl B. Allendoerfer Award in 1980 and 1999. He won the MAA's Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award in 1977.

In addition to the MAA, Klee was active in the American Mathematical Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research.

External Resources

MAA FOCUS In Memoriam (pdf)

MAA FOCUS obituary (pdf)

MAA obituary

University of Washington page about Klee

Notices of the AMS obituary (pdf)

"People Making a Difference" column about Klee's mathematical work

Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award citation

The Mathematics Genealogy Project

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