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Obituary

Thomas F. Storer
LSA Minutes

Thomas F. Storer
1938 – 2006

Thomas F. Storer, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics passed away on November 9, 2006. A familiar face on campus for thirty-five years, Tom was one of the first Native Americans to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. He joined the University of Michigan faculty as a T.H. Hildebrandt Research Instructor in 1965 after receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles. He was promoted through the ranks to Professor in 1979. Tom’s research area was primarily in combinatorics, more specifically cyclotomy. His monograph “Cyclotomy and Difference Sets” (1967) became a standard reference. He also conducted research in modeling of long-term memory and recognition and directed the thesis work of numerous doctoral students.

Tom is most remembered in the Department of Mathematics as an outstanding teacher and counselor who inspired his students and left a lasting impression. He was a dedicated instructor for Honors Calculus for many years. His courses were among the most rigorous, and his distinctive teaching style, coupled with great intellectual excitement, drew students to his classes. In recognition of his teaching skills, he was awarded the Amoco Foundation Good Teaching Award in 1985. Tom also had a great impact on students in his role as an undergraduate counselor in the Honors Program, a position he held for thirty-two years. It was in this role that his integrity, sensitivity, patience, and empathy for students enabled him not only to guide them academically, but also to help them become well-rounded individuals. He touched the lives of students in many fields, and is well remembered as a strong influence in their lives. “Tom Storer took a personal interest in his students’ lives; you knew it was genuine even if you never had the pleasure of meeting him outside the classroom,” writes Susan Kolodziejczyk (BA 1993, Senior Researcher, National Geographic Society). “Anywhere you found him—in his office, on a bench in the sun, at a favorite corner of the Brown Jug—he welcomed every smiling face.” It has been said that Tom was always teaching. He himself left the following legacy on his door upon retirement: “From where the sun now stands, I will teach no more forever.” Besides mathematics and the honors program, Tom taught UM courses on Native American culture and the Ojibwa language.

Robert Megginson, Professor of Mathematics and Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Education in LSA, remembers Tom as “… a remarkable individual who cared deeply about students. In my travels I have found it amazing how many former UM students, American Indians and others, will find out that I am a UM mathematician and then tell me of the difference Tom made in their lives and careers. We have lost one of our great educators and mentors, and he will be sorely missed.”

For many years, Tom was the principal faculty spokesman for Native Americans. He worked closely with the UM and Ann Arbor Native American community. His commitment to diversity and equity and justice for all people was reflected in his receipt of the Dream Keeper Award. Tom shared his love of string figures from around the world and became a leading authority. He taught several colleagues to play tennis and had a deep love for freestyle Frisbee. His Dalmatians were his constant companions. Tom is survived by his wife, Karen; two children, his mother and six grandchildren. Tom Storer was a true “Renaissance Man.”

-- Department of Mathematics