The Hunter community mourns the loss of John Loustau, professor of mathematics, who died unexpectedly on September 7.
Professor Loustau joined the Hunter faculty soon after earning his PhD at UC Santa Barbara, and taught here for 50 years. A brilliant mathematician and devoted teacher and mentor, he eschewed retirement, fought serious illness as he continued his work, and as the fall semester began, was teaching two courses and serving as the Applied Math Program’s Graduate Advisor.
The focus of his early research was algebra, but he shifted to numerical analysis, which creates algorithms to find solutions to problems in computer science, the natural and social sciences, engineering, medicine, and business. He wrote two books on the subject, Numerical Differential Equations and Elements of Numerical Analysis with Mathematica. The interdisciplinary nature of his work led to frequent collaboration with faculty and students in geography, computer science, and biology, as well as math. Just a month before his death, despite increasing frailty, he was part of an interdisciplinary Hunter team that attended a conference at the University of Michigan to deliver a paper to cell biologists.
Professor Loustau’s first book, Linear Geometry with Computer Graphics, was co-written with his former Hunter student Meg Dillon ’81, now a professor emerita at Kennesaw State University. After learning of his death, she wrote a moving letter to Hunter describing him as a “phenomenal teacher” and noting, “I myself became an academic as a direct result of his mentorship, and I never could figure out his teaching magic.”
Her praise is being echoed widely by Professor Loustau’s Hunter colleagues. In tribute after tribute, they call him a source of inspiration, a cutting-edge researcher, an unwavering champion of his department, and all in all, “a real mensch.” He was the 2013 recipient of the Undergraduate Research Conference’s Outstanding Undergraduate Mentoring Award, and today faculty members are remembering the many graduate and undergraduate students who cited Professor Loustau as one of the best teachers they’d ever had.
Further, notes Professor Barry Cherkas, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, “John maintained continuous contact with alumni over many decades. This is part of his legacy.” Also part of his legacy are his generous financial contributions to Hunter, furthering the study of applied mathematics.
Hunter College and Profess Loustau’s family are planning to hold a memorial in October or November. When available, information will be posted on the Math Department’s website, math.hunter.cuny.edu.