I first met Tom in March, 2017, when I decided to accept a postdoc offer from UCLA. One reason for making such a decision was Tom himself — I especially appreciated his “lesser” known results in transporting random measures and one-dependent processes (with). He was more approachable than I expected, and we talked a lot about the California life during our first lunch meeting.
We began discussing research in September of 2017 when I arrived at UCLA. This was 6 years after Tom’s retirement from the UCLA math department, but Tom was still very active in research. The topic that Tom shared with me was one-dependent processes on general graphs, which he had developed an interest in during the last few years. We then collaborated on this project for the next 18 months until Tom started having serious health problems. What was surprising to me was Tom’s intense involvement in the project. We had weekly meetings, and he regularly wrote me some “ready-to-go” Latex notes, which I believe to be uncommon for distinguished researchers of Tom’s stature. His recipe of doing research was simple: start with the small cases and then generalize. Magically, he appeared to be always successful (although he told me he did fail a few times). I feel quite fortunate to be one of his last collaborators.
Besides research, Tom was also willing to share his life. I remember each visit to his house, chatting about the “research-type” life for hours, and I always found Tom to be a good story teller. I also remember the swimming pool party Tom organized every year, and liking a lot the smoked turkey that he and his wife Chris prepared for us. Tom was a fascinating educator, a great collaborator, and an adorable person. I miss him a lot.
Wenpin Tang is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Columbia University in New York City.