Robert Dyson

Bill enriched the lives of so many of us in so many different ways.
I first met Bill in 1967 when he and Abe Charnes gave a 10 –day course to PhD students (as I then was) and faculty at Lancaster University. The course was held at an hotel in the English Lake District – a setting that matched the excellence of the course. They performed a brilliant double act and seemed to know everything there was to know about mathematical programming theory and applications including fractional programming, chance constrained programming, oil refinery planning and media scheduling. And of course they did know everything! Bill would be in his early fifties and he seemed oldish to me then, although he didn’t seem to age for the next thirty years.


In 1981 I stood down as Chairman of the Business School at Warwick and was entitled to sabbatical leave the following year. I wrote to Bill and received an immediate response from him and then a formal invitation from Roy Harris, the Chairman of the Department of Management at UT Austin, to visit, which I immediately took up once I had located Austin on the map. My family and I moved to Austin in January 1982 and stayed until August. We visited Bill and Ruth at their house in the hills, went to concerts with them, I met Bill frequently for lunch – but we never discussed DEA! At that time my interest lay with strategic planning. We were in regular contact from then and my wife, Dorothy, sent a Christmas card every year and Bill later told us he had kept them all. In the mid-eighties I came across DEA, and Emmanuel Thanassoulis and I began a productive period of research into DEA involving applications and theoretical developments and my friendship with Bill facilitated our entry into the DEAcommunity. From then on we met from time to time at conferences.

In 1997 I initiated an invitation to Bill to give the Blackett Memorial Lecture to the UK OR Society. (Blackett was one of the wartime founders of OR). Bill visited at Warwick staying at my home. He had a rewarding interaction (certainly for us) with the Warwick DEA group which at that time consisted of Emmanuel and myself, and several doctoral students including Ali Emrouznejad, Rachel Allen, Laura Read, Claudia Sarrico and Ana Camanho. (Victor Podinvoski had recently joined Warwick but I am not sure if he had been lured into DEA at that time). It was a pleasure and honour to host Bill’s stay in the UK. My final meeting was at the Austin Informs conference in 2010. I contacted Bill to let him know that Dorothy and I would be visiting Austin and he invited us to have dinner with him in his residential home. I usually take a bottle of wine to dinner but didn’t on this occasion which was fortunate as the home was dry. At dinner the waitress took our drinks order and the choice was several fruit juices or milk. We ordered our drinks but Bill did not order. When the drinks came the waitress set up a row of all the options for Bill – five in all. With a twinkle in his eye Bill said ‘I am heavy drinker you see’. He proceeded to take sips from all the drinks during the meal.


As many of you know the DEA stream at Austin was in Bill’s honour. He attended every day and many people had a chance to speak to and about Bill at the stream or the lunch held in his honour. When Bill spoke there was a hint that it would be the last time he would meet many of us. Bill enriched the lives of so many of us in so many different ways.

Robert Dyson, UK
August 2012