Math Chair Klaus Fischer Dies

July 7, 2009Print-Friendly Version


Klaus Fischer teaching.

Klaus Fischer teaching.

Klaus Fischer, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, died on Thursday, July 2, at the age of 65. The following message was sent to his colleagues by Vikas Chandhoke, dean of the College of Science.

Dear Colleagues,

It is with deep sorrow that I tell you that Dr. Klaus Fischer died Thursday, July 2, from respiratory failure associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

He is survived by his wife, Eva Thorp; their son, Eric; and daughter and son-in-law, Kathryn and Juan de Chamie.

Visitation will take place Tuesday, July 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home, located at 9902 Braddock Road in Fairfax. Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, at Burke Presbyterian Church, 5690 Oak Leather Drive in Burke.

Memorial contributions may be made in Klaus’ name to the ALS Association, 7507 Standish Place, Rockville, MD 20855.

Klaus received his PhD from Northwestern University in 1973 and joined the Mason faculty that same year. He was serving a second term as chair of the Mathematical Sciences Department at the time of his death.

Widely respected by colleagues around the country, his multifaceted career as a mathematician put him at the forefront of education for students at all levels, teacher training, statewide education initiatives and mathematics reform activities. For many years, Klaus was a national judge for MATHCOUNTS, an enrichment, coaching and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement.

His research interests spanned a variety of complex problems, including algebraic geometry, commutative algebra and graph theory and combinatorics with a geometric bent.

A man of many passions, Klaus was an avid tennis player; a founder and 30-year member of a noontime faculty basketball team; and a bicyclist who pedaled across the country in 30 days one summer, crossing the Rockies and carrying water from the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles to add to the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach. He continued to bike to work until recently.

His other interests included folk, bluegrass and blues music; carpentry; and quiet time with his thoughts in front of a roaring fire.

Those close to him agree on one of his most significant contributions: “Klaus always saw the lighter side of darker events and gave us comic relief at needed times.”

He was a fine man who will be sorely missed.

Sincerely,

Vikas Chandhoke
Dean, College of Science


6 Responses

  1. Richard Bolstein says on:

    Klaus and I both came to the GMU Mathematics Dept. in 1973. He was a good friend and colleague, very witty and athletic. Klaus was competitive in everything he did. We played basketball together several times a week, and although I wouldn’t dare challenge him in tennis, I let him whip me in ping-pong frequently.

    Klaus was a compassionate person who knew how to listen well and offer sensible advice when asked for. Always willing to share his carpentry skills, I have fond memories of Klaus helping me put a new set of shingles on my house in 1976. (Actually, it was more like me helping him.) It was at Klaus and Eva’s home that I first experienced cinnamon in spaghetti sauce.

    Although Klaus’ contributions to GMU and mathematics are many, I will remember him first and foremost as a kind and generous human being.

  2. Mary Zamon says on:

    Klaus was one of the first people I worked with when I came to Mason. He was always friendly to the new kid on the block. He has been a long time part of Mason and will be missed.
    My sympathies to Eva who will be missing him more than anyone.

    She was one of my first professors here, and it was a great surprise to me when Klaus said, yes I know all about you! My wife has you in class–

    Mary Zamon

  3. Bill Longwell says on:

    I met Klaus at Northwestern and we both arrived at George Mason in 1973 but in different departments. At that time we decided to share a town house so that we could have a fireplace. We were later joined by our future wives, Eva Thorp and Flo Wilson. While Flo and I moved to Nashville in 1984, we have remained close friends, with our families spending almost every New Years Eve together either in Fairfax or Nashville.

    Klaus was a serious mathematician but he was not a serious man. In the Fall of 1973 the then new President of GMU visited each department. George Mason was a small, little known institution that was still often confused with NOVA. At that meeting Klaus urged President to install more pinball machines in the new Student Union. Over the years, Klaus’ wry sense of humor was at the forefront when the math department was consigned to portable units behind the library. This was the age of the Pink Flamingos on the grass and in print.

    As with Richard, I joined Klaus in a number of construction projects and it was through this association that I came to enjoy woodworking. But Klaus’ carpentry activities were a reflection of his grace. He was always there to lend a helping hand. This also extended to defusing tense situations. At his core, he was a conciliator, finding the best in people. In sum, he was a wonderful colleague and my best friend.

    We will miss you.

  4. Tomeka Mucciolo says on:

    George Mason was a small, little known institution that was still often confused with NOVA. At that meeting Klaus urged President to install more pinball machines in the new Student Union. Over the years, Klaus’ wry sense of humor was at the forefront when the math department was consigned to portable units behind the library. This was the age of the Pink Flamingos on the grass and in print.

  5. Trinity says on:

    Memorial contributions may be made in Klaus’ name to the ALS Association, 7507 Standish Place, Rockville, MD 20855.

  6. cobra telsiz says on:

    Veryy Goodd :)
    Klaus was a serious mathematician but he was not a serious man. In the Fall of 1973 the then new President of GMU visited each department. George Mason was a small, little known institution that was still often confused with NOVA. At that meeting Klaus urged President to install more pinball machines in the new Student Union. Over the years, Klaus’ wry sense of humor was at the forefront when the math department was consigned to portable units behind the library. This was the age of the Pink Flamingos on the grass and in print.

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