Celebratio Mathematica

Thomas Milton Liggett

Thomas Liggett, colleague and friend

by Alfred Hales

Tom star­ted at UCLA in 1969. I did not get to know him that well right away, partly be­cause we went on sab­bat­ic­al for the 1970–71 aca­dem­ic year. But when we re­turned in 1971 I took the po­s­i­tion of Gradu­ate Vice Chair for the term 1971–73. My very able staff as­sist­ant was Christina Goodale. She and Tom star­ted dat­ing, and by mid 1972 she was Chris Lig­gett!

My wife Ginny and I be­came good friends of Tom and Chris from then on. We “car-sat” for their Toyota Co­rolla when they were away on sab­bat­ic­al. We sang with them at the Christ­mas car­ol party at the Browns each hol­i­day sea­son. Tom and I played vol­ley­ball sev­er­al times and once he got me out on the hand­ball court — though I nev­er man­aged to get him out on the bad­min­ton court. And we so­cial­ized at many de­part­ment­al events.

I served one year as De­part­ment Chair in 1980–81, and Tom was my very ef­fect­ive Ad­min­is­trat­ive Vice Chair that year. Then in 1988 I be­came De­part­ment Chair for the 1988–91 term. This was a some­what troubled peri­od, due to a dif­fi­cult Dean and severe UC fin­an­cial prob­lems. Tom’s able ad­vice and sup­port dur­ing that time was in­valu­able, and I will be forever grate­ful for this.

Tom took over as Chair in 1991 and a year later I took early (VERIP) re­tire­ment from UCLA to head a new NSA-sponsored re­search fa­cil­ity (IDA/CCR) in La Jolla. This cut down on my/our op­por­tun­ity to in­ter­act with former UCLA col­leagues, but in 1996 I in­vited Tom down to par­ti­cip­ate in our sum­mer “SCAMP” pro­gram. Tom con­trib­uted sev­er­al im­port­ant re­search pa­pers to that pro­ject. Sub­sequently he served a three year term on IDA/CCR’s FO­CUS ad­vis­ory com­mit­tee, in­clud­ing one year as chair. That last year he wrote a very nice and thought­ful sum­mary re­port on the year’s pro­gress.

In 2004 we at­ten­ded Tom’s 60th birth­day party, a won­der­ful oc­ca­sion — see­ing many old friends as well as cel­eb­rat­ing the event. And in 2008 Tom was elec­ted to the Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences, a very well de­served hon­or which pleased us very much. We con­tin­ued to in­ter­act with them oc­ca­sion­ally — but all too sel­dom — at vari­ous de­part­ment­al events (mostly re­tire­ments). In par­tic­u­lar we at­ten­ded his re­tire­ment event in 2012. The last time I saw him was at John Gar­nett’s re­tire­ment in 2018.

It has been a great pleas­ure and priv­ilege to have known Tom throughout the years!

Al­fred W. Hales is Pro­fess­or Emer­it­us at the UCLA De­part­ment of Math­em­at­ics and a mem­ber of the re­search staff at IDA/CCR-La Jolla.