Today I learned that my dear friend George Casella has passed away.
George is well known for many things: his influential textbooks, his
research on decision theory, his research on MCMC, his good
statistical sense, his service work, his crystal clear lectures, … I
could go on and on. But there was something else about George that
made him very special. It’s very hard to put into words but, put
simply, he was probably the most positive, optimistic person I have
I first met George about 24 years. He was visiting Purdue at the time
and I went there to give a talk. About five minutes after I met him, I
felt like I had known him for years. Shortly after that, he invited me
to a workshop he had organized at Cornell. To this day, those of us
who attended the workshop still refer to it as “Camp Casella.” We
did work. We gave talks. We listened to talks. We drank. We ate. We
had fun and we learned a lot. I remember one morning he knocked on my
door very early in the morning. I was surely hung over. But George
insisted we go for a five mile run. It was a grueling run involving
some of Ithaca’s steep hills. I was destroyed. George barely seemed
I saw George last Fall when I visited the University of Florida. He had
just finished a round of chemotherapy. But that did not stop coming
in to work. And he was, as always, brimming with enthusiasm. When he
told me the many things he was doing (including supervising and large
number of students) I felt like a loafer. In January, he visited us in
Pittsburgh (with his wonderful daughter Sarah) and we had a great
time. Talking about statistics while eating, drinking wine, and
drinking scotch. It doesn’t get better than that.
I have known George since 1988. It is hard to imagine the field of
statistics without him. We will miss you my friend.
My deepest sympathies to Anne, Sarah and Benjamin.
(Note: more about George’s inestimable influence at Christian’s blog. )