Memories

Nicholas Steinhoff '81

Student and family friend

I’ll miss Dr. Borrelli greatly – I’m glad my wife had a chance to spend a day with the two of us on campus last year. Bob and Ursula were always so kind to me during the countless hours I spent in their home during my years in Claremont.
A genuine giant of a man, in more ways than one, will be so missed at the Harvey Mudd campus and by his wonderful family.

François Rocaries

Visiting Professor at the Math Dept HMC (1995-96) and friend of Bob

J’ai rencontré Bob pour la première fois lors d’une de ses années sabbatiques à Paris. Il n’a eu de cesse ensuite de me faire venir à Harvey Mudd College pour lui rendre la pareille.
Grace à lui et à Ursula j’ai passé une merveilleuse année à Los Angeles. Ils m’ont permis de m’intégrer à merveille au sein de la communauté d’Harvey Mudd et de profiter au maximum de cette période de ma vie.
J’ai, en ce moment même, ouvert sur mon bureau, un de ses livres sur les équations différentielles écrit avec son complice Courtney.
Je regretterai longtemps nos longs diners consacrés, entre autre, aux mérites respectifs de divers tire-bouchons et d’algorithmes de résolutions d’équations différentielles.
Au revoir Bob… et au revoir Ursula dont j’apprend en même temps la disparition. Aujourd’hui il pleut sur Paris comme un écho à ma tristesse.
I met Bob for the first time during one of his sabbatical year in Paris. He never stopped then bring me to Harvey Mudd College to return the favor.
Thanks to him and Ursula I spent a wonderful year in Los Angeles. They allowed me to integrate perfectly in the Harvey Mudd community and take full advantage of this period of my life.
I have, at this moment, open on my desk, one of his books on differential equations written with his friend Courtney.
I will miss our long long dinners devoted, among other things, the relative merits of various corkscrews and algorithms of solution of differential equations.
Goodbye Bob … And Ursula goodbye, as I learned at the same time your disappearance. Today it rains in Paris as an echo to my sadness.

Gary Kiefer '70

Sophomore Math Student

As a Chemistry major, sophomore math was a requirement, but not my greatest strength. I was fortunate to have Bob Borelli as my section instructor. He shared his joy and love of math and teaching, until I too was having fun. How cool is that! I will miss Bob and his passion.

Jerome Spanier

Colleague and friend

I am very saddened by news of Bob’s passing, and I am sorry that I was unable to attend the Memorial Service for him. I have known and admired Bob since my arrival in 1970. He was among the most energetic, involved and affable persons in Claremont and I learned much from He and I collaborated on a number of projects, both administrative (e.g., as co-Directors of the HMC-CGS math clinic) and technical. My wife and I enjoyed Bob & Ursula’s company at many social events over the years; especially those at which Bob conducted wine-tastings. Bob was instrumental in contributing to the HMC math program and very well-liked by students, faculty and others in prominent leadership positions in Claremont.

Thanks, Bob, for the fond memories; you wil certainly be missed.

Jerry Spanier

Cynthia Souza

Support Staff

Bob will always hold a special place in my heart. I supported Bob when I worked for the IT Department. I knew him for over 18 years, and he was one of our favorite Professors. We loved to see Bob coming down the hall. He was one of those people who made a difference and touched peoples lives in a very special way. He will be remembered for his cheery spirit, and dedication to Harvey Mudd. I was so sad to hear of his passing. Unfortunately, didn’t hear of it until after the service. Heartfelt sympathy to the family. Bob will definitely be missed. He was a truly wonderful person to work with all these years.

Scott Lange '69

Student

Above all Dr. Borelli enjoyed sharing math with all of us and used his own enthusiasm to spark ours. He worked very hard to make topics as clear as possible. It was obvious that he cared deeply for students.

Clyde Johnston

Colleague at Innosoft International, Inc.

We’ve all lost a larger than life guy. As President/CEO of Innosoft International, Inc. from 1991-2000 I’ll always remember Bob Borrelli as bright, fun, and a very committed and supportive Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Innosoft. Bob and Urusula Borrelli made the world a better place each and every day.

Bobby Berger '94

Student

Professor Borrelli went out of his way to ensure I understood the subject. He introduced me to modelling & solving complex problems using computers as a tool which was influential in ALL my work thereafter. I will celebrate his life & pass on the great karma he gave me.

Jeff Groves

Colleague and friend

Bob was a great colleague. When I was a young faculty member at HMC, it quickly became clear to me that Bob had real pull at the institution. He helped to shape our college, especially in his work in the Mathematics Department, but also much more widely. But he was also just a very cool guy. I enjoyed running into him and having a quick chat–he was always interested, always curious. I’ll miss him.

Craig Watkins '76

Student, Admirer, and frequent Imitator

While my senior advisor was, on paper, Courtney Coleman, it had become clear long before that that “Borelli and Coleman” meant either or both. Their text was used several years ago for a “more theoretical” DE subject at MIT, and the fact that I had taken a class at Mudd with the mimeographed manuscript notes (which I still have!) impressed many. It wasn’t until I starting teaching DEs with computational methods
that I fully appreciated how much I had learned without realizing it.

A few years ago I was asked to help referee a physics paper for the American Journal of Physics, cited the printed B&C text, and made a fan out of the former president of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Of course, with Bob and Courtney, and the late Stavros, it wasn’t all just math. Others know of Bob’s devotion to wine, while others were more of the beer frame of mind, so to speak. Once at a party at John

Greever’s, Stavros had brought a bottle of homemade wine. Bob claimed it was good, the rest of us found it undrinkable, and Courtney was the only one to speak for the majority.

The night after the class of ’76 graduated, and the parents had been put to bed, one of our number decided to open a magnum of champagne given as a graduation gift. On our way to borrow ice from the chemistry department, we saw that the light was on in Bob’s office. We shared the champagne, and he just happened to have a bottle of better stuff in his desk drawer.
As I recall, our impromptu party broke up around 2AM.

Anyone who has used or can get a hold of their text will not be surprised to see the long example of using differential equations to decide on the best depth for a wine cellar.

Jack Cuzick '70

Student

Very sorry to hear this. As a student pourer at his blind wine tastings, math major (’70) and CGS PhD, and long time friend afterwards, I learned a lot from him. He was always enthusiastic about what he was doing and a great companion.

Please send my condolences to is surviving family.

Rob Outterson '96

Student

I will miss Professor Borelli. As a student, I felt the unflagging joy he had for what he did and taught. He relished seeing that spark of understanding kindle in young minds, year after year, and his open enthusiasm encouraged all of us. He welcomed students into the wonderous world of ordinary differential equations, easily playing the roles of inviting ambassador and gracious host. It was an honor to have been touched by his spirit.

I extend condolences and sympathy to his family and close friends. May his memory bring you peace.

David Karlton '93

Wine tasting

I never had a class with Bob. But he was such a great personality, and I vividly remember attending one of his wine tasting events. He was so generous in letting us young kids try real wines, and I always admired him for being able to connect to students and colleagues on a genuine, human level. He will be missed.

Beverly West

Colleague

I shall most sorely miss Bob Borrelli — super colleague, mentor, and friend.

I first met Bob in 1976 when he and Court Coleman came to Ithaca for a MAA Workshop in writing modules for applications of mathematics, and we began 37 years of collaborations in our shared interest in differential equations. In 1990 Bob invited us at Cornell to be charter members of CODEE, (an NSF Consortium for Ordinary Differential Equations Experiments), and in 2010 he drew me out of retirement to join the renewed online CODEE (Community of Ordinary Differential Equations Educators).

The best part of this last endeavor was the seven weeks I and my husband Jim spent at the Claremont Colleges this past winter, working to make that effort sustainable after the NSF grant money ran out. Bob was so full of ideas — he always had lots for me to do. We spent many a productive hour following up on old contacts and making new ones.

But it was not all work! After hours and on weekends we shared many adventures and meals, once in each other’s homes, but mostly in restaurants (always Italian, of course, and utterly superb). Perhaps our favorite adventure was to the Getty Center, where Bob wanted to see the exhibit of 14th century Florentine Art — sharing this with him was total enrichment! Bob was so anxious to help us get the most out of our short time in California — he loaned us guidebooks and made connections to places of special interest to us that we never would have found on our own. We had the pleasure of several trips together into L.A. and Cedars Sinai, with Bob as our private tour guide.

These and many other memories, and all the lessons learned from Bob over the years, will be with us forever.

Chris Smith

Personal Friend

I met Bob and Ursula in 2001 when I moved in next door to their vacation home in Running Springs, Calif. At the time, both Bob and I were were writing books, his being his mathematics textbook. Over the years, we developed a close friendship, and I later managed his and Ursula’s affairs when they were out of the country. I considered Bob one of my closest friends and someone on whom I could always rely. His passing marks the end of an era, and I will miss him greatly.

Susan Lewallen '76

Student and great admirer

Bob Borrelli and Courtney Coleman remain to this day the best teachers I’ve ever had. Bob’s generosity of spirit inspires me and I can learn to be a better person myself from reflecting on it. In the last few years he brought me back to thinking about mathematics again and I was lucky to spend a few hours with him and ask some questions I wish I’d had the sense to ask when I was his student 37 years ago. It is a privilege to have known him and been his student. Bob will be alive in so many hearts and minds for years and years.

Liz Baughman

I’ll miss Bob stopping by my office to just chat or to check on the endowment funds he supported throughout the years. If you look up the word Gentleman in the dictionary you should see a picture of Bob Borrelli. Bob was always interested in having a conversation about HMC, about the Math Department, about what was going on in your life, and about what was going on in his life. I recall going to Ursula’s service at Our Lady of Assumption and I so admired his strength as he spoke about his time with Ursula and how she enhanced his life. They are both together in peace and probably enjoying a glass of fine wine!! He will be missed.

Ami Radunskaya

Colleague

Bob was a wonderful mentor and my good buddy. I had the best dinner of my life as his guest at a gathering of the “Royal Order of the Purple Palate”, where we were supposed to identify each of the fifteen wines served. His encouragement as I blundered through this challenge was typical of his support throughout my career: “Don’t worry about what THEY think, you’re doing great.” He was never patronizing, but he understood that – in his words – some interpersonal dynamics in our community involve “too much testosterone”. His advice about teaching, publishing and chairing departments has been invaluable to me. Since our first meeting during my interview at Claremont, we’ve worked on many projects together and, at our last meeting last week, Bob melted my heart when he said “We make a good team!”. I’ll wear my red vest with pride and fond memories. I’ll miss you, dear friend.

Richard Zucker '74

Student, Advisee, Friend

Bob was my thesis advisor during my senior year, and I’m sure my affection for him is largely due to that experience. But that was only part of it. He was a kind and gentle and jovial man who was bigger than life. He was easy to love. I will miss him very much.

John Trager '96

Inspired by

During my senior year of college, Prof. Borrelli and my girlfriend rekindled the HMC Wine Tasting club, after a several year hiatus. We had a good time, and learned a lot, but that wasn’t really what I’ll always be grateful for him for. The last meeting of the year, he supplied the majority of the wines, and the pinnacle of the tasting was a 20-year old first cru bordeaux that had to be worth $500/bottle. That experience changed me. Not because the wine was so transcendant (which it was), or because of the monetary value, but because Prof. Borrelli loved wine and sharing so much that it was perfectly natural for him to gift thousands of dollars worth of his collection to (largely ungrateful) students so that they could experience the heights of the art.

Over the past eighteen years, I’ve made a habit of hosting tastings of all kinds, and have regularly paid the lion’s share of the bill for expensive libations of all sorts so that others could experience them. I can credit that impulse to Prof Borrelli, who taught me that it’s more important to share the experience than to count the cost.

I regret that I don’t have an academic memory to share, but I am so grateful for the experience and the spirit of giving that he imparted, that I needed to share.

Jonathan Mersel '75

Student, Friend, Trustee

Bob Borrelli was my friend, my teacher, my mentor and my inspiration. Here was a man who understood deeply the joys of life – from mathematics and science, to the importance of friends and family, to working with people of make the group much greater than the sum of its parts, to the incredible blending of great wine with wonderful food. We shared each of these joys together over the past 42 two years, many times in many combinations.

Images of Bob come to mind. The first sight was a mathematician teaching physics in an experimental course – Natural Philosophy. The last sight was of a strong sprit doing what it takes to come back from heart surgery earlier this year in rehab. In between were the midnight talks in his office in Kingston, pouring at his wine tastings at the Claremont chapter of Les Amis Du Vin (where I had the best wine of my life), summer research in differential equations, a dinner he and Ursula cooked for my graduation, being at my wedding, being the faculty advisor for clinic projects I sponsored, many parties and gatherings, culminating with a wonderful outpouring of love for him at his 80th Birthday party last year. Then came the sadness of Ursula’s passing… Now Bob has left us as well…

Each of us that have gotten to know Bob loved Bob. How could we not? For to know Bob was to love him and all that he swept up with his incredible joie de vivre. Each of us has our own stories of Bob Borrelli. It is through these stories and his work – both published mathematics and personal encouragement in all walks of life – that Bob Borrelli will live with us for a long long time. We will miss the man, but treasure the memories.

Mark Huber '94

Student, Colleague

Bob was one of the professors who shaped the way I think about the world. As an undergrad watching him teach, he always showed his delight in mathematics, and in the ways that you could tease out new ideas and symmetries in clever ways. He was always generous with encouragement and praise, and made you feel like you were on a grand journey, no matter how simple the task.

When I returned twenty years later as a colleague, Bob still had that same wonderful spirit. He’d always say hi and want to catch up on the latest news whenever we ran into each other. I will miss him.

Art Benjamin

Colleague

Bob Borrelli was like a father to me. He was the chair of the math department when I was hired. He was a voice of calm, reason, and strong support as I tried to figure out my life at HMC. He was there for me emotionally when my own father passed away early in my career. Bob had an affection for HMC, especially its students. And the students adored him right back. His presence will be sorely missed, but his impact will be felt forever.

Lisette de Pillis

Colleague

Bob’s passing is a great loss to us – his absence will leave a hole in our lives. My heart is heavy when I realize we will share no more hallway conversations or cafeteria lunches. Every encounter with Bob was a joy. He always had amazing experiences and insights to share. Bob was the epitome of generosity and graciousness. He shared, not to impress, but to enrich others. His conversations were never about himself or his abundant accomplishments, but instead he was focused on helping, guiding and mentoring. He never stopped thinking about new ways to share his love of mathematics and mathematical modeling. His work energized him, and he energized us. He was generous with his time, he was generous with his praise, he was generous with his support. He was a natural leader, but invested in bringing out leadership abilities in others. He was able to inspire enthusiasm in others through his own enthusiasm. He was straightforward, honest, down-to-earth, always kind, always gracious. There is so much more to say, but I am not able to formulate the words right now. Bob will be deeply missed.

Andrew Bernoff

Colleague

Bob was instrumental in the development of the HMC Mathematics Program. He joined the faculty in 1964 and retired in 2000 after thirty-five years of service during which time he had served multiple terms as department chair and as director of the Mathematics Clinic program (occasionally doing both jobs simultaneously). Bob played a pivotal role in the hiring of the second generation of HMC Mathematicians including Art Benjamin, Lisette de Pillis and Michael Moody. I had the privilege of teaching Fourier Analysis with Bob in my first year at HMC; he helped me understand how to teach and mentor our amazing students.

Three of Bob’s true loves in his life were his vivacious wife Ursula, a good bottle of wine, and differential equations. Ursula was a force of nature and the perfect foil for Bob’s ebullient personality. Bob’s knowledge of wine was encyclopedic, and those of us who were fortunate enough to share a bottle with Bob knew we were in for a treat, and also a short lecture on the origin and the vintage of the bottle. Bob’s passion for differential equations was shared by his longtime colleague and collaborator Courtney Coleman (and many, many others including Darryl Yong, Lisette de Pillis, Mike Moody and Ami Radunskaya). With Courtney he authored a textbook and built ODE Architect, a piece of visualization software used by a generation of HMC students. Those of us who were privileged to be at his 80th celebration got to see not only his love for Ursula, wine and ODEs but also to see how many lives Bob has touched and changed for the better.

Bob’s legacy in the department include two awards he endowed (the Giovanni Borrelli Fellowship and the Giovanni Borrelli Prize) and the Interface Journal which promotes undergraduate interdisciplinary research which has been reinvented as the online Interface Compendium. More broadly he co-founded the Claremont Center for Mathematical Sciences (CCMS) and infused the magic of the Clinic program into a summer program at UCLA, the Research in Industry Program for Students (RIPS). But his true legacy is the generations of mathematicians at HMC and beyond that he inspired to do great things.

Rest in peace Bob – you will always be loved by your colleagues and friends.

Francis Su

Colleague

Bob was an extraordinary soul. He loved his students and colleagues and his mathematical work. And he changed the conversation about the teaching of differential equations in this country. But most importantly, what I admire and appreciate about Bob was the gentle way in which his good cheer and earnest affection brought out the best in people. He had a vision to help shape a department where people like myself could flourish as scholars and as human beings.