Tom Liggett has had a significant, positive influence on many people, and I am fortunate to be one of them. I first met him when I was a graduate student at UCLA, taking his measure-theoretic probability class. His presentations were so interesting and clear that I became fascinated with the subject. I studied real analysis diligently in preparation for working with Tom, since I knew that was the basis for much of his research. When he was my thesis advisor, I enjoyed the problems he gave me. I became very familiar with his book Interacting Particle Systems1 and have been interested in the subject ever since. The models and techniques in that book have remained important through the decades.
I was fortunate to stay in touch with Tom over the years. I have good memories of math hikes with him, both as a grad student hiking the Santa Monica Mountains and at a probability conference going up Pikes Peak. Tom had energy and enthusiasm for life and math. I saw him every year or two at the Southern California Probability Symposium. The last time was a couple of years ago, and I told him about a problem that I found intriguing. In his usual, helpful way he began writing several related examples, and the next day he sent me an email with beneficial references. Many of us will miss Tom’s clear explanations, thoughtful ideas, and enthusiasm. He made profound contributions to the field of probability and inspired so many.
Shirin Handjani was a student of Tom Liggett and graduated from UCLA with a Ph.D. in 1993. She is currently working at the Center for Communications Research in La Jolla, CA.