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Edward John Specht

Edward John Specht was born July 29, 1915 at Loveland, Colorado, and died near Spencer, Indiana, on November 9, 2011, at the age of 96 years. He was Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, at both Andrews University and Indiana University South Bend.

Ed married Mary Josephine Michel on December 25, 1938. They had two children, Lahna (born 1942), presently living in North Carolina, and Frederick (born 1944), of Bloomington, Indiana; one grandson, Rob Richardson residing in North Carolina, and two great-grandchildren. Mary died March 26, 2008 in Bloomington, Indiana. 

Ed attended Campion Academy and received his B.S. from Walla Walla College in 1939; he then studied at the University of Colorado, where he received an M.S. in 1941; he did advanced study at Washington University in St. Louis from 1941-44, and at Brown University in the summer of 1945. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1949. He was Instructor in Mathematics at both Washington University and the University of Minnesota, and was Professor and Chair of Mathematics at Andrews University from 1947 to 1972. He was Professor of Mathematics at Indiana University South Bend from 1972 to 1986. 

His publications include his Ph.D. thesis on conformal mapping and several papers on potential theory with Harold T. Jones, for whom he served informally as thesis advisor. Harold received his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1958. In his later years Ed wrote a treatise on Euclidean geometry with Harold Jones; this manuscript is now seeking a publisher.

Edward Specht was a member (since 1949) of the Mathematical Association of America, a 50-year life member and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a member of the American Mathematical Society, Pi Mu Epsilon and the Society of Sigma Xi. More than twenty of Edward Specht’s former students at Andrews University have pursued doctorates in mathematics. 

In 1984 AU conferred upon him the honorary degree of DSc. Quoting from the citation for this degree: “Influential in the formation of Adventist philosophy in science and mathematics, Dr. Specht’s foresight and leadership proved critical in the development of the resources for, and the establishment of the computer center and computer science instruction at Andrews University.”  He was the principal moving force in the establishment of a cooperative engineering program at Andrews University in the early 1950s (with the University of Michigan); this provided a route through the Adventist educational system to high-quality preparation in that field.   

Ed was a formative person in the development of science education and research on the Andrews University campus; in the 1960s and 70s he guided the conduct of a large number of institutes for secondary school mathematics teachers, funded by the National Science Foundation. Quoting again from his honorary degree citation: “During his tenure at Andrews University, Specht negotiated a contract with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to do basic research in potential theory, thus becoming the first Adventist to attract large-scale support for research aside from the medical sciences.”

Edward Specht will be remembered as a person of wide-ranging interests in science, mathematics, the humanities and the arts. Truly the world was his oyster. Moreover, he lived a life filled with Christian kindness and integrity, always encouraging his students regardless of background, race, or ethnicity. The depth of his social consciousness was legendary.  He was always ready to take the side of the underdog. Truly this man was a giant.

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