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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Erik Hemmingsen


Erik Hemmingsen

Erik Hemmingsen was born in Denmark, and became a US citizen when his father was naturalized. From 1942 to 1945 he served as a physicist at the Naval Air Experiment Station in Philadelphia, and he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania under John Kline in 1946. He was an assistant professor at the University of Georgia during 1946-47, then joined SU and was promoted to professor in 1963. In 1953-1954 Erik was on sabbatical at the University of Copenhagen and in 1965-1966 he was a visiting professor at the Norwegian Technical University in Trondheim, where he lectured in Danish. In 1969-1970 he served as chair of the department of mathematics at Vanderbilt, but he decided to return to SU. Throughout his career he worked very conscientiously to build the holdings of the SU mathematics library, was especially cited at some length for this by Kibbey in his September 1980 address to the department, and at Erik's retirement the half disk window above the mathematics library entrance was inscribed Erik Hemmingsen Mathematics Collection.

His research concerned theorems in dimension theory for normal Hausdorff spaces, plane homeomorphisms with equicontinuous iterates, and light interior maps of n-manifolds on n-manifolds. Erik had five Ph.D. students: Bruce Peterson (1962), William Reddy (1964), Paul Abramson (1965), Peter Antonelli (1966), and Paul Blackwell (1968) and he wrote 12 papers, including 3 joint with Church and 4 with his student Reddy. He served as the sole advisor for graduate students for years, and then was one of two advisors. In the College Erik was a member of the Faculty Council 1967-1977 and 1978-1979, member of the College Skills Concentration Committee 1982-1984, and chair of College Admissions Committee 1981-1984. He was a member of the University Senate 1977-Fall 1979 and 1981-1984, the Senate Agenda Committee 1977-Fall 1979, the Academic Space Committee 1978-1987, and Chair of the Senate ad hoc committee on honorary degrees for commencement speakers. He was a member of the Senate Library Committee 1981-1984, its chair 1982-1984, treasurer for SU Library Associates and was a member of the search committee that chose David Stamm as university librarian. Erik was a member of Sigma Xi, and from 1979-1980 he was vice president and from 1980-1981 president of its SU chapter. He was president of the Seaway section of MAA in 1972 and 1973, and he was a member of AMS, MAA, and the Danish Mathematical Society.

In 1970 Chancellor Corbally had tightened financial controls (see the Pardee survey), had chosen Prucha as the Dean of Arts and Sciences with such a mandate in the College, and decided to remove Kibbey as an active power on campus by appointing him Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School. Gail S. Young (chair at Rochester about that time) told me he had heard this version. Erik was elected by the faculty to be department chair from 1971 to 1976, and was reelected to a 3-year term ending in 1979. In 1971 Prucha told Erik "that he was tired of calling the mathematics department about simple matters of fact... and getting a nebulous answer." The department, among others, had severe reductions in both staff and money, and in the 30 years since, times have never been as easy as they were during Kibbey's tenure. In 1971 Erik became the University's Mace bearer, who leads the academic procession at commencement, and he continued in this position until he retired in December 1987 with 40 1/2 years of service.

In 1946 he married Louise, known to us all as Bunny; actually he was a friend of her father's, first saw Bunny when she was two and started to date her when she was a freshman in college. They have two children, Kirsten and Carl. Carl is single and works for the Navy. Kirsten is an attorney in a law firm in Washington, DC, and is married with two children. Her son Carl got a degree at Michigan, is now studying forensic science in Washington, D.C. and intends to go to law school. Her daughter Inga will be a sophomore at the University of Delaware in the fall. Bunny graduated from Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA, and later she did graduate work in both Library Science and Education at SU. Indeed, after she had earned her master's degree, she taught a couple of courses in Library Science at SU. After that, except for Erik's leaves, Bunny was librarian, first at Pebble Hill School in Dewitt and then in a Lafayette school. From 1974 to 1989 Bunny was the director of the Manlius Library, which at first was a two-floor library in an old building, but ended with triple the space all on one well-lighted floor in a former elementary school at Elmbrook Drive in Manlius. Bunny was the only full-time employee, taking care of budgeting, administration, hiring and scheduling more than 40 part-time staff and volunteers. An article 'Library Lady' Retires on page 10 in the Eagle Bulletin of August 23, 1989 refers to Bunny as "cheerful, sprightly" and has some of her stories about the library. For subsequent years she worked part time in the Syracuse Public Library, until late May 2000 when Bunny and Erik moved to a retirement community in Pennsylvania.

Erik Hemmingsen passed away on December 30, 2012.

Sources: SU Record of May 9, 1988; 20th edition of American Men and Women of Science (1998-1999); his curriculum vitae of January 1987; an article 'Library Lady' Retires on page 10 in the Eagle Bulletin of August 23, 1989; Erik's comments. Phil Church 7/16/02.

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