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June 27, 2013

Obituary: Florencio Gonzalez Asenjo

asenjoKKBMathematics professor emeritus Florencio Gonzalez Asenjo died June 10, 2013. He was 86.

A native of Buenos Aires, Asenjo earned his PhD from the University of La Plata, Argentina.

He taught at LaPlata, then headed the calculus and statistics section of the Argentine Laboratory for Testing Materials and Technological Investigations before coming to the United States in 1958 to take a faculty position at Georgetown University. Asenjo also taught at the University of Southern Illinois before joining the Pitt mathematics faculty as an associate professor in 1963. He rose to full professor in 1966 and retired in 2001.

Asenjo enjoyed an international reputation in the study of mathematical theory, lecturing in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, the Netherlands, France, England, Sweden, Liechtenstein, Belgium and India, with research published in journals around the world.

He also wrote symphonic music, having studied with Spanish composer Jaime Pahissa. He composed music for piano as well as chamber music and orchestral pieces. His works have been performed by the Eastman Philharmonic, Eastman Wind Ensemble, U.S. Air Force Band, American University Orchestra, LaPlata Symphony Orchestra, Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, the Bulgarian Philharmonia and the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra.

While he continued to write and lecture in his field, in his retirement Asenjo turned additional attention toward his music. He completed the recording of his 10th major work in May.

James V. Maher, provost emeritus, remembered Asenjo as kind and gracious. “He was a very dedicated professor and a good colleague. He put a lot of effort into making Pitt a wonderful university.”

Math department colleague Anna Vainchtein, who became friends with Asenjo when she arrived at Pitt in 2000, remembered him as very passionate about his work, both in mathematics and music.

“After Florencio retired and had more time to compose music, a number of CD recordings of his work were made by various European orchestras, with Kirk Trevor as the conductor, and Florencio traveled to Europe for each recording. When we met for lunch, he would always tell me about his new CD, the artwork he selected for the cover, the story behind the music and the new project he was working on. We would also talk about poetry, politics, mathematics and so many other things that interested him,” she said.

“Florencio was full of life. Most people half his age do not have the incredible amount of energy he had. He was always looking forward to his next project, his upcoming travels, a mathematics lecture he was going to present. It is very sad that he is no longer here, and I will miss him a lot.”

Juan J. Manfredi, vice provost for undergraduate studies and professor of mathematics, said, “He was a true renaissance man. His area of expertise was mathematical logic but he also worked in philosophy — he was always attracted to philosophy — and he was a gifted musician. He was a classical professor, interested in understanding the world. A new renaissance man: He was not only good at these things, but he had interest in them.”

Asenjo’s precision — be it in his contributions at faculty meetings or in his perfect handwriting — was notable, Manfredi said, adding:

“He authored many books and papers. To write philosophy in a language not your native language is very difficult. The use of language in philosophy is very, very clear. For someone not a native speaker, it’s very difficult. He wrote as well in English as in Spanish.”

Asenjo was a senior member of the faculty when Manfredi joined Pitt’s math department. “I was very thankful for him as a mentor. He was someone I could talk to even though we were in different areas of mathematics,” he said.

Asenjo was fond of dining out and relished discussing Latin American history and politics, Manfredi said, adding that their families socialized together, with Manfredi’s wife sharing Asenjo’s Argentinian roots.

Asenjo’s wife of 47 years, Bethsabe Pastorius Nelles, preceded him in death in 2007. Survivors include his son, Julian, who is a staff member in Pitt’s Center for Latin American Studies, and daughter, Leonor, of Argentina.

Donations may be designated in Asenjo’s memory to the El Salvador North American Villages Network ( to support development/educational initiatives in El Salvador under the direction of Alvaro Carias.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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