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September 1, 2011

Obituary: Chong-Yun Chao

ChaoChong-Yun Chao, professor emeritus of mathematics, died Aug. 26, 2011, after an extended illness. He was 71.

A native of Kumming, China, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen, Chao came to the then-Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an associate professor in 1963. He was promoted to professor in 1966 and taught undergraduate and graduate mathematics until he retired in 2006, when he was named professor emeritus. He continued to teach courses in Pitt’s external studies program through 2009.

Chao’s research interests were abstract algebra and combinatorics, especially graph theory, fields in which he published widely.

Prior to coming to Pitt, Chao was a research mathematician at IBM and a graduate fellow at the University of Michigan, where he earned his PhD in 1961. Chao received his BS and MS degrees from Iowa State University.

Chao served as a referee for a number of journals, including the Journal of Combinatorial Theory, the Journal of Graph Theory, Discrete Mathematics and several publications of the Mathematical Association of America. He also was an associate editor of the Journal of Mathematical Research and Exposition.

Retired departmental colleague Glen Whitehead said Chao was a mentor to him when he first came to Pitt in 1973 and later the two co-authored three research papers.

“C.-Y. was both a colleague and a friend to me,” Whitehead said. “He was very dedicated to both teaching and research. He was the dissertation adviser to 14 doctoral students during his 43 years on the Pitt faculty.”

Whitehead continued, “As a friend, he helped me plan my trips to the People’s Republic of China during [the 1980s]. We enjoyed many meals in Chinese restaurants in Pittsburgh. Sometimes he would go into the kitchen and speak directly to the chef in Chinese. He had a very pleasant personality. He was honest, loyal, sincere and trustworthy.”

Chao is survived by his wife, Theresa; his son, Karl, and his daughter, Evelyn.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 44 Issue 1

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