75th Anniversary Conference – A Celebration to Remember

The Department of Statistics celebrated its 75th Anniversary during the weekend of October 7-9, 2016. The department was founded by renowned statistician Gertrude Cox in 1941, and the anniversary weekend celebrated its history of excellence in research and teaching. Nearly 200 individuals were in attendance, consisting of alumni, faculty, students, and visitors.

There were four keynote speakers who gave overviews of their fields. John Sall gave the opening talk on Friday morning, “NCSU Statistics: 75 years of Statistical Computing.” Doug Nychka began the Friday afternoon session with his talk, “Environmental Statistics NCSU Stats LXXV.” Geert Molenberghs started off the morning session on Saturday with his talk, “Biostatistics—Historical Reflections.” For the Saturday afternoon session, Bruce Weir opened with “Statistical Genetics 1951-2016: NC State Statistics and Beyond.” Being able to listen to all of these great speakers at the same conference was truly an unparalleled experience.

Dozens of alumni gave short, 10-15-minute talks during the conference on the areas of biostatistics, statistical computing, environmental statistics, statistical education and statistical genetics. These alumni were asked to give some information about themselves as well as their fields. The conference provided a way for attendees to learn about all of the diverse things that the alumni are doing and to see their successes.

During lunch on Friday, a number of students presented posters in areas such as tuning parameter selection, machine learning and spatial statistics. The sessions on Friday concluded with a formal banquet for alumni and faculty. Jim Goodnight, co-founder and CEO of SAS Institute, reflected on the history of NC State Statistics and SAS Institute after the dinner. Goodnight and the two other original founders of SAS Institute, John Sall and Tony Barr, were present at the conference and the banquet.

The conference concluded on Saturday with a reception for all attendees. Stu Hunter, who graduated in 1954 and was by far the oldest alumnus at the conference, spoke during the reception. Hunter was previously the president of the American Statistical Association and has donated two named professorships to the department: the Cox Professorship, which Butch Tsiatis holds, and the Hunter Professorship in Statistics, which will be awarded in the future. Hunter gave a unique perspective on the history of the Department of Statistics and talked about other famous statisticians that he knew personally, such as George Box and R. A. Fisher.

With more than 1,800 alumni, the Department of Statistics has had a lot of great people to celebrate over the years. Our alumni are involved in many diverse fields and are doing great things in their areas.