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Article by George Box on Bill Hunter

Bill's sons:
John Hunter
Justin Hunter
Lynda Finn, 2009

I was lucky enough to be Bill Hunter's teaching assistant for his course on Statistical Experimental Design for Engineers. I also had the good fortune to travel with Bill to New Jersey to meet with people at Bell Labs. I'll never forget Bill showing me around the Princeton campus. It was clear he loved his alma mater, and wanted me to see what a great place it was and is.

Bill shared much with me that I hope to emulate in my life and career including:
  • a passion for sharing knowledge to help make the world better
  • a genuine love and respect for people
  • a way of explaining even complex subjects so anyone could understand
  • an ability to use humor break down barriers and bring people together
I am deeply honored to have known and learned from Bill. I feel the great impact he made in the city of Madison and in the statistics world every day.

From Julia O'Neill, 2018

I remember taking Statistics 424 in Madison in the spring of 1985, my second semester in graduate school as a ChE student. I was quite overwhelmed in my first semester, and I had resolved that in the second semester I was going to speak up in class, and raise my hand whether I knew what to say or not. How lucky for me that I raised my hand in Bill Hunter's class! He was so kind and encouraging at all times. I knew very soon that “this is what I always wanted to do but I didn’t know what they called it”. My life took on a whole new direction from that point forward, and it has been a wonderful career path.

I was impressed with Bill Hunter's kindness and compassion just as much as with his gift for teaching statistics. He was working with the city of Madison on using statistics to improve public services, and he would tell stories about that in class. He made statistics relevant and meaningful. We were all required to do a project using Design of Experiments on anything that interested us. My project was to experiment with a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I had a taste testing party with many of my fellow students providing the data. Bill gave me a good grade on the project (which I still have in a box in my attic) with the comment that he only wished I had invited him to the party.

I am so grateful for his teaching and inspiration, which had an enormous and lasting impact on my work.

From John Criqui, 2009

I wanted to thank you for posting the information regarding Peter Scholtes passing on your blog. Seeing the picture of you, George Box and Peter together reminded me of a time way back when I met your dad.

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with your father in September 1985, at a DOE seminar during hurricane Gloria, that was arranged by Joiner Assoc. for PACE in Philadelphia PA. It was a 5 day DOE course on Statistics for Experimenters and JASS software that he and George Box delivered over a 3 week period, your dad did the first 3 days. On the first day he "fried our brains" with his "matter of fact" presence in Statistics. He said not to worry, it would all make sense later. By the third day it did. George Box handled the last two days of the seminar about 2 weeks later. As a follow-up, we kept them up to date on some of our projects, which led to our second meeting.

The second time was about a month later, we applied their DOE methods in a screen tensioning project at Microcircuit Engineering. The experiment was conducted by a department of about 20 people, many of whom hadn't completed high school. He thought the shop floor project was so special, that he came out to our plant in Mt. Holly, NJ and had the group's final presentation on the DOE video taped. He was very excited and roundly complemented the group for an outstanding job; he told everyone that he intended to use the video of their presentation for a graduate class that he was teaching at UW.

He was a very intense, friendly and exciting personality.

Thanks again for the memories.

TN Goh, 2007:

You may not realize that I first met Bill 38 year ago, when he was in Singapore helping us set up the first school of engineering in the country. He persuaded me to go to the graduate school at UW-Madison and I daresay that's the best advice I ever got in my whole career. Now when I come to think of it, what Bill stood for in his lifetime has not been, and never will be, out of date. He had advocated the use of statistical thinking and the systems approach, which if anything is even more critical today in handling issues such as global warming and government effectiveness.

Also, statistical design of experiments has assumed an increasingly important role in performance improvement and optimization in the face of constrained resources, again something always in the minds of engineers, managers and business leaders. From time to time there are others who package statistical tools under labels Bill might not even have seen himself, such as "Design for Six Sigma", but the underlying idea is still the same: recognize the existence of variation, and the earlier you anticipate it and do something about it, the better off you will be in the end.

Bill's zeal in spreading the message and sharing his knowledge and expertise with people in other parts of the world is well known; I would even say that he had recognized that "the world is flat" way before the likes of Tom Friedman discovered the reality of globalization!

Anonymous, 2005:

I just thought I'd let you know how much I enjoyed your dad's class as a grad student in 1979 at UW-Madison. I'm sure you've heard many comments like this, but I'll add one more. He was a delightful and entertaining prof who clearly loved his subject. He made an impression on me one day by asking us a question about the British comedy radio program, The Goon Show, which I had heard. I think I was the only member of the class who raised his hand. After that moment, I always felt a special bond with him, because I thought it was great that he appreciated the wacky humor of that show.

I received a wonderful education at UW and your dad was no small part of it.

David Bacon, 2000:

It is a humbling experience to review the list of previous recipients of the William G. Hunter Award. I am privileged to join their company.

This award has very special significance for me since, as some of you know, Bill Hunter and I were graduate students together in the early 1960s in what was then a newly established Department of Statistics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I would like to take a few minutes to share my recollections of Bill Hunter the statistician and Bill Hunter the man.

Bill began his graduate studies in Madison one year before I did, and he completed his program two years before me. This was an early indication of Bill's talent for leading the way for other aspiring statisticians.

He and I shared an apartment for eight months or so, and that was a truly memorable experience. He had some unique tastes, beginning with the stimulating art of the Swiss painter Paul Klee, and a fascination with military march music, especially at 6 o'clock in the morning. He introduced me to a new breakfast dish - dollops of ice cream topped with wheat germ. And I will never forget our regular nightcaps of Black Russians - we slept very well!

Even as a graduate student, Bill displayed many of the characteristics that set him apart as a superb practicing statistician. Above all, statistics was FUN for Bill, and the joy he generated in his professional activities (and in his leisure activities) was infectious to any who were lucky enough to be associated with him. A few of you here today, such as Lynne Hare, Jim Lucas and Steve Bailey, who attended the Gordon Research Conferences on Statistics in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in the "old days", when Bill created and performed his unique skits can attest to his rich and uninhibited sense of humor.

His creative use of graphical summaries was another of his distinguishing traits. I still have one or two of his wonderful doodles that he composed during lectures that we attended together.

Bill's appetite for variety in statistical challenges set a marvelous example for his colleagues and the many students from diverse fields of study whom he taught. Like our mutual Ph.D. supervisor, George Box, Bill shared his rich and varied consulting experiences from industry, government, and the academic world freely with anyone who showed interest.

His achievements as an educator, both within the university and beyond, are legendary. How many people teaching design of experiments have been stimulated by the 101 examples of designed experiments developed and conducted by Bill's students, which he summarized in a brief but wonderfully useful Technometrics paper many years ago?

In summary, Bill Hunter was the epitome of a professional statistician - brilliant, creative, inspiring, hilarious and kind. And he was an exemplary human being. I am truly honored to receive this award which bears his name.