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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2012

Lee Lorch Given CAUT Distinguished Academic Award

Lee Lorch honoured at 96.
Lee Lorch honoured at 96.
CAUT’s 2012 Distinguished Academic Award has been presented to Lee Lorch, professor emeritus at York University and holder of a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Mathematicians. Lorch is the seventh recipient of CAUT’s award, which was established as a way to honor individuals for extraordinary research contributions, sustained excellence in teaching and leadership in service to their institution and community.

Over a 50 year career, Lorch held academic positions at City College New York, Penn State, Fisk University and Philander Smith College. In 1959 he joined the faculty at the University of Alberta where he helped initiate its graduate program in mathematics. In 1968 he moved to York University, then a fledgling institution.

Lorch has long been known as an advocate for human rights and social justice. His civil rights acti-
vity during the 1940s and 1950s while in the U.S. cost him successive academic appointments before his self exile in Canada. Besides campaigning for civil rights, he was also a champion of political and academic freedoms. And that advocacy carried over into a refusal to answer questions when called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, a committee concerned with investigating pro-Communist sentiment.

A fellow of the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and elected member of the Councils of American and Canadian Mathematical societies, Lorch is an author of more than 80 articles in mathematics. His published work has received international acclaim appearing in such leading journals as Acta Mathematica.

Beyond his career contributions to mathematics and his service to his profession, he is a teacher said to have had a profound influence on the lives of minority and women mathematicians and in the words of his nominator “one who tirelessly recruited students who probably wouldn’t have seen mathematics as a possibility without his intervention.” As professor emeritus, he continued to teach courses and give workshops at York.

“He is an extraordinarily gifted teacher and researcher, and a man of unwavering principles with a sense of mission,” said CAUT executive director James Turk to tremendous applause and a standing ovation at the award event during CAUT’s Council meeting last month. “It’s a great honour and privilege to give the award to Dr. Lorch.”

Unable to travel to Ottawa to attend the ceremony, Lorch’s award was instead presented to him in Toronto.