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  April 8, 2002

Statistics Professor Harry Posten Dies
Remembered as Devoted Teacher
By Claudia G. Chamberlain

Harry O. Posten, professor emeritus of statistics, will be best remembered for his passion as a teacher and his humility and warmth as an individual, according to University colleagues and family members.

Posten, who retired from UConn in 1993, died March 23 from injuries sustained when he fell on a patch of ice in the driveway of his Storrs home, during a brief winter storm. He was 74.

"Harry was a devoted teacher, and was regarded as a key faculty mentor for any graduate or undergraduate student enrolled in a statistics course," recalls Nitis Mukhopadhyay, professor of statistics and math sciences.

"He was a teacher's teacher who believed in attending to students' needs personally," Mukhopadhyay adds.

Dipak Dey, professor and head of the statistics department, agrees. He says Posten was a wonderful mentor: "I learned from him how to teach undergraduates. I still use his notes."

Posten published a transparency master book that remains a valuable teaching aid. He also played a key role in changing some of the statistics courses, particularly at the 100 and 200 levels, by introducing computer skills.

Five UConn Ph.D. and 15 master's students received their degrees with Posten as their major advisor.

"Harry was a teacher at heart," says his widow Gail.

Posten, who retained an office at the University, chaired the Pfizer Colloquium project from its inception "Harry developed the Pfizer Colloquium series from ground zero. The series brought some of the most eminent statisticians to the University," says Mukhopadhyay. "He was just one man, but what a big difference he made in statistical science. For this, our profession remains eternally grateful to him."

The author of more than 25 research articles and an array of technical reports, Posten was internationally recognized for his original contributions, generally in the area of nonparametric statistics, and more specifically in topics dealing with robustness of the customary t-test in the Behrens-Fisher problem. He was closely involved with the American Statistical Association.

Posten was also the prime mover in the archival videotaping of distinguished statisticians, and was still involved in the project at the time of his death. He had chronicled the lives of some 20 illustrious statisticians.

Born in Middletown, N.Y., Posten was a U.S. Navy veteran and served aboard the U.S.S. Roanoke during the Korean Conflict. He received a B.S. degree in mathematics from Central Connecticut State University, where he played varsity baseball and football.

He then earned a master's degree in mathematics/statistics from Kansas State University and a Ph.D. in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic. After receiving his doctorate, he first worked as a staff researcher for IBM and as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Rhode Island.

In 1963, Posten arrived on the Storrs campus, where he would enjoy a 30-year teaching career. He received tenure in 1968 and became a full professor in 1989.

He loved classical music and marching music, and was an avid follower of UConn Husky sports. He was also active in the Mansfield community, serving as a coach for the town's Little League and soccer teams, and as a representative on the town's Charter Cable Advisory Committee.

In addition to his wife of 44 years, Posten leaves a son, a daughter, and three grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter Cathy Ann Posten on March 8.

A public memorial service is planned at a later date. Contributions in his memory may be sent to the Mansfield Baseball/Softball Association, P.O. Box 492, Storrs, CT 06268.

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