By the Numb3rs Spring 2015


Undergraduate Director Frank Beatrous Retires

Frank Beatrous

It is bittersweet news indeed that we are announcing that our own Dr. Frank Beatrous is retiring.

Frank came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1980.  While he was here he established the first Calculus Lab.  In 1996 he was awarded the Chancellors Distinguished Teaching Award.  In 1997 Frank was awarded the Carnegie Science Center Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Education.  Frank was ask to be the Undergraduate Director for the math department in 2005 and has willingly given his time and talent to the students since then.  He has done an outstanding job as a teacher and administrator.  Often times Frank has found himself multi-tasking on several administrative tasks related to undergraduate director, while still teaching.  His commitment to the math department and the university will be missed.

Frank plans on traveling during his retirement.  In particular he would like to fulfill a long time fantasy of a motorcycle adventure to Alaska.  He also wants to spend more time with his family and revive some research projects that have been on hold for too long.  He hopes to spend some time finding an old Norton Commando in a barn and restore it to its former glory.  We wish Frank, much happiness and relaxation in his retirement.

He will be missed by many…

“Frank's service as Undergraduate Director has been invaluable to the Department. He has put a tremendous amount of effort to ensure that we provide high quality educational experience to our undergraduates. His door has been always open and he has been extremely generous with his time in helping our students with whatever problems they may have. Some of Frank's responsibilities included coordinating undergraduate advising, meeting with prospective students, scheduling of classes, managing part-time instructors, leading the assessment of undergraduate programs, expanding the curriculum, and serving as Math Club faculty advisor and College in High School Liaison, to name just a few. He has done an outstanding job in all respects and he will be dearly missed.” -- Ivan Yotov, Chair

"I was very fortunate to work with Frank in adding technology in the teaching of Calculus, which we started in 1993, well before internet was ubiquitous.
Frank is not only a superb analyst and an excellent teacher (winner of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award), he is also an expert in computers and technology in general. " -- Juan Manfredi, Associate Provost

"Frank makes the best shrimp etouffee and jambalaya that I have tasted!  (Both of these are from Louisiana from where he hails)." -- Bard Ermentrout, University Professor

“I would like to extend my best wishes to Prof. Frank Beatrous for a happy and productive retirement.  Frank has been the key pillar in the decade-long effort to strengthen our undergraduate program. He has made it our mission to ensure that each student reaches his/her potential and goals.  
As Undergraduate Director, he has been the leader in revamping a number of our course sequences, increasing the number and breadth of course offerings, and making mathematics more exciting for our students. Frank has always been available to students as well as colleagues. Whether the issue is curriculum problems or complex analysis problems, it is always a pleasure to have a discussion with him.” -- Gunduz Caginalp, professor

“Both in Mathematics, as I was an undergraduate in his graduate analysis course in 1983, and professionally, throughout the 20 years of my teaching at Pitt, Frank has been the force and the mentor behind my success.” -- Angela Athanas, Instructor

“When I arrived at Pitt as Chair in 1987, I soon realized that Frank was one of the most sensible and reliable people in the department, as well as being a fine mathematician.  His advice then was usually, perhaps always, right on target.  I believe that subsequent chairman have discovered the same qualities.  He has been a stalwart in our department for decades!

More recently, since I retired, I have felt particularly lucky to have Frank around, both as a friend and as a colleague.  He has been encouraging in my efforts to teach an occasional course, allowing me to find interesting assignments and providing feedback and suggestions.  For the last couple of years my classroom happened to be down the hall from his office, and this provided me plenty of chances to stop by, find out what was happening in the department, and discuss what I was covering at the moment.

Last fall, for example, when I was teaching a course on history of math and came to Weierstrass, he pointed me towards a 2010 paper giving a new proof that the “Weierstrass function” was continuous and nowhere differentiable.  Frank himself, working with an undergraduate student, found a way to make this proof even more elementary than it was in the 2010 paper. Incidentally, the Weierstrass function is probably the first example of a “fractal”.

One way in which Frank and I differed was in his love of motorcycles.   I was always intrigued that someone so sensible and smart would don heavy Frank Beatrous protective gear and come in by that mode of transportation even in bad weather.  And while I certainly sympathized when he did once suffer an injury, I also had to laugh that it occurred off road while he was taking a motorcycle safety course!  For some reason which I don't recall, Frank once purchased an old fashioned, I think German, three wheel vehicle.  This apparently intrigued our departmental administrator at the time (who had known Frank and his wife even before coming to the department), and so Frank gave her a ride in the contraption.   Fortunately for the department, both survived.

I will miss these sessions in Frank’s office, and the chance to gossip, learn some mathematics, and find that his reliability, and sensible opinions on mathematics, departmental affairs, indeed on life, have not diminished over the past 28 years.” -- Stuart Hastings, Professor Emeritus

"Prof. Beatrous did many important works on complex analysis. His paper (joint with Jacob Burbea) " Holomorphic Sobolev spaces on the ball" is now a classic. I once studied his paper "Estimates for derivatives of holomorphic functions in pseudoconvex domains" (Math. Z. 1986). I was interested in the subject because my Master's advisor, Xiangyu Zhou and my collaborator, Miroslav Englis both work on several complex variables. Later I studied complex geometry with my PhD advisor, Kefeng Liu and my postdoc mentor, Shing-Tung Yau. When I arrived at Pitt in Fall 2013, at the welcome reception hosted by the dean of GSAS, Prof. Beatrous introduced me and said many kind words. I am also grateful to him for numerous advices and help in the last two years.

Prof. Beatrous must be proud of his student, Song-Ying Li who is now a professor at UC Irvine. In the past ten years, I assisted Prof. Liu and Prof. Yau in organizing several conferences in CMS of Zhejiang University. Song-Ying Li visited Hangzhou several times, e.g., he was an invited speaker at ICCM 2007, a triennial conference with more than 1000 participants. Although I have not met him in person, I heard about Prof. Li's legendary stories from Prof. Shanyu Ji of Houston University. One story is that Prof. Li solved Valiron conjecture at the age of 24 when he was a graduate student at Fujian Normal University; his achievement was reported by People's Daily, an official newspaper of the government of China.

Frank, wish you all the best for your retirement. If you visit China in the future, I will be glad to host you in Hangzhou." -- Hao Xu, Assistant Professor

“Frank or (Dr. Beatrous) will be missed.  I personally will truly miss his knowledge of this program that he has made his own, his patience with me,  a new employee with lots of questions, and the way he could find humor in some of the tedious tasks involved in administering such a large program.  His passion for Math, professionalism with fellow faculty, staff and students, and his ability to seamlessly handle 5 tasks at the same time has been an inspiration to me.  Life will continue in the Department of Mathematics, but it will not be the same.” -- Pat Markham, Graduate Student Administrator

“Frank was a great guy to work with over the years in coordinating activities with courses, personnel, budgets & deadlines.  He was very personable, generous with his time & always on top of things.  His advice was always good.  You could easily discuss new ideas or potential problems with him.” -- Drew Porvaznik, Payroll Manager

Frank Beaturous is an exceptional person.  He is very knowledgeable about his role as undergraduate director, faculty member and university policy.  I will miss having that knowledge only a phone call away.  However, mostly I will miss Frank’s kindness, sense of humor, patience and compassion the most.  I wish for Frank to have a happy, healthy, and very long retirement, you deserve it!  It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Frank” -- Carol Miller, Dept. Administrator

"April 17, 2015
Dear Professors, friends and graduate students,

I have a few stories about Frank Beatrous I'd like to share with you. I met Professor Frank Beatrous in the winter of 1987 while I was a graduate student at Pitt. He was truly one of the best professors. As a student in two of his courses, Complex Analysis and Several Complex Variables, I can say that he consistently demonstrated the material with deep insight and presented it in a very clear and intuitive way.

After my first year at Pitt, I passed all my qualifying exams and was faced with choosing a thesis advisor. I knew I was interested in complex analysis, but I didn't yet know who I wanted to work with. However, my classmates and I spent a lot of time studying in the library on the fourth floor. There, we saw Frank and Jacob [Burbea] discussing mathematics almost everyday and working very hard in their offices. I thought that people who worked so hard must be good, so I talked to Frank and expressed my interest in being a PhD student under his supervision. That's when he gave me a paper on harmonic analysis to read. I grasped the concept of the paper very quickly, and two months later, we had come up with a much better result than the one in the paper. This was my first of several joint papers have had with Frank Beatrous.

Being very young and energetic, I read through many papers on harmonic analysis, complex analysis and partial differential equations. There were many times I needed someone with a good knowledge of mathematics with which to discuss these ideas, and Frank's office was always open to me.  We discussed mathematics almost everyday. Even though my thesis was on the Neumann boundary value problem of complex Monge-Amp_ere equation, which Frank had never studied before, he bought Gilbarg and Trudinger's book and discussed my questions on the subject with me when I needed.

As a young researcher, I was always in a hurry to finish writing papers, but Frank taught me that it was more important to contribute your complete solution to a problem and make a good point when you write a paper. This benefited me lot later on.

Frank is very modest person, when I talked about mathematical topics, I liked to emphasize how important they were, but he always corrected me on that point. He said that you can only say it's interesting, not that it's important. Later, I met Steven Krantz, who has a famous dictionary of translating American Math English. One of them is: When you show your work to someone, he and she says: It's interesting, that means: I don't care
(a joke) In the 80's when computers were less popular than they are now, Frank was already very tech savvy.

I'd like to tell two stories about that. First, most of the calculus exams at Pitt were multiple choice, so many students cheated by looking at their neighbors' answers. Frank compared the test results of students in his computer to see who was cheating. If he found two people who got the exact same problems wrong, he called them to his office, and found 100% of them had cheated. In fact, people who study big data, like the authors of Freakonomics, are doing similar things now.

Frank also co-taught a calculus course with a few other professors. They decided to use previous test as sample example and went through it in class. One of the professors took the real final exam and gave his student ful solutions. When the professor proctored the exam, he realized that this is the exam
I went through in my class. This left the professors very nervous. But after the students had taken the exam, Frank compared the scores of all the classes in his computer, and he found there was no difference. Everyone was understandably relieved.

In summary, Frank is a good mathematician who devoted his life to teaching and research. He is one of the greatest teachers I have ever had. I am so grateful for the time he spent on me and all help he gave me. I hope that he'll savor his retirement, and he is always welcome to visit me in California."

A former student: Song-Ying Li

Professor of Mathematics
University of California, Irvine.