Obituary: Richard Ellis, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics

Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis

Richard S. Ellis, 71, of Amherst, a professor of mathematics and statistics, died July 2.

He was born in May 15, 1947 in Brookline and grew up in Boston. He attended Boston Latin School and then Harvard, where he majored in mathematics and German literature and graduated in 1969. He earned a Ph.D. at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University in 1972 and

began his research and teaching career at Northwestern University that same year.

He joined the UMass Amherst department of mathematics and statistics in 1975 and became a full professor in 1981. He also taught classes about Judaism and the Torah as an adjunct professor of Judaic and Near Eastern studies and elsewhere.

He was a pioneer in the area of probability theory known as large deviations and proved an important theorem in this field, the Gärtner-Ellis Theorem. Professionally, he was most proud of having inspired and mentored many undergraduate and graduate students across his 45-year teaching career as a professor. Always trying to help others, he was proud of having brought meditation to his classroom.

He published two research-level mathematics books, numerous research papers and a book about meditation.

He is survived by his wife Alison; children Melissa and Michael and their spouses Ken and Lauren; his brother and sister-in-law Ronald and Danielle; and his sister-in-law and brother-in-law Sheila and Alan.

A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 6 at the Jewish Community of Amherst, 742 Main St. Burial will follow at the JCA cemetery, 222 Leverett Road, Shutesbury. The family will be sitting shiva in Amherst through Monday.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation.