James E. Baumgartner
December 28, 2011

James E. Baumgartner, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Dartmouth College, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on the morning of December 28, 2011. He died in the home that he loved with his family gathered for the holidays. His final days were celebratory and joyful.

Jim was born in Wichita, Kansas on March 23, 1943 to Earl and Jean Baumgartner. His early days were spent with younger brother Richard and many cousins in rural Kansas where his grandfather operated a grain elevator. His family later moved to Wichita for his father's work with Cessna. Jim attended Derby High School where his mother was a beloved teacher.

Jim began his undergraduate study at Caltech in 1960. Two years later, he transferred to the University of California at Berkeley for a broader liberal arts education and, as he liked to note, for coeducation. Amidst the excitement and turmoil of Berkeley in the '60s, Jim took courses in every discipline, rallied for social justice, met his future wife Yolanda, married, became a father, and graduated with an A.B. and Ph.D. in Mathematics.

Jim came to Dartmouth in 1969 expecting to return west when his research instructorship ended. Instead, he found a wonderful group of colleagues and accepted a permanent appointment. In 1983 he was named the first John G. Kemeny Parents' Professor of Mathematics. Over a 35-year career, he prepared and taught more than 40 different courses in Math and Computer Science, trained numerous Ph.D. students and postdocs, and encouraged and inspired young mathematicians from around the world.

Jim's research specialty was in logic and set theory. His contributions included the development of general techniques useful to other mathematicians and specific discoveries such as the Proper Forcing Axiom, described by his colleagues as "one of the most studied additional axioms of set theory." He traveled extensively to present at seminars and conferences. Some of his favorite times were spent at institutes in Luminy (France), Oberwolfach (Germany), and Veszprem (Hungary). He served on national committees for the American Mathematical Society, the National Science Foundation, the Association for Symbolic Logic, the Ford Foundation, and others. He was an editor and referee for many professional journals.

In 1982 Jim learned he had multiple sclerosis. This did not change his zeal for a robust and fulfilling life. For nearly two decades he ran, played fierce tennis and volleyball, and biked country roads with family and mountain trails with fellow enthusiasts. Eventually he needed a wheelchair. His use of his new wheels and the walking he attempted each day were as spirited and vigorous as his charges up Chieftain Hill and Moosilauke. His courage and optimism never faltered. And his curiosity and delight in new knowledge - which he pursued daily on his trusty iPad - remained true to the end.

Jim was tremendously proud of his two sons and the wonderful women they introduced into his life. He completely adored his grandchildren. Jim is survived by Yolanda, his wife of 45 years; his son Eric and daughter-in-law Laura of Seattle; his son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Maura Keating of Providence; his grandchildren Grace, Milo and Margaret; his brother Richard Baumgartner and sister-in-law Jeanne of Kansas City; and his nieces Amy Hutton and Stacey Sullivan.

Plans for a memorial will be announced at a later date. Gifts in Jim's memory may be made to the Department of Mathematics, 27 North Main Street, 6188 Kemeny Hall, Hanover, NH 03755; or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, PO Box 4527, New York, NY 10163.

 

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