Kenneth Jerome Tiahrt died on Oct. 8, 2014, at the age of 79 at his home in Bozeman, Montana. He was born in Pierre, South Dakota, Feb. 5, 1935, to Arthur Waldo and Anne Kistina (Stena) Tiahrt.
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Ken attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and received his bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Physics in 1957. He was awarded a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the next two years at Kansas State University where he not only earned his master's degree in Mathematics but also met the love of his life, Nancy Anne Boyer, whom he married in 1959. Nancy always said it was a scandalous marriage of a Norwegian Lutheran to a Swedish Lutheran. Ken took a job at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, as an Assistant Professor where the first two of his children were born, Chris and Dianna. In 1964 he enrolled at Oklahoma State University in the statistics graduate program, holding an N.S.F. Science Faculty Fellowship and GTA until he earned his PhD in Statistics in 1967. It was there his third child was born, Roxanna.
The fall of 1967 he joined the Department of Mathematics at Montana State University in Bozeman. His fourth child, Eric, was born in Bozeman. His career at MSU spanned 27 years beginning as an assistant professor and ending with a 16 year term as department head, second longest term in department history since 1901. Dr. Tiahrt taught statistics at MSU and was actively involved in directing graduate students and providing statistical consulting across the campus and the state. He directed the work of six PhD students and helped formalize the Statistics Center to aid researchers from diverse fields on and off campus. He was a lecturer in the American Statistical Association (ASA) Visiting Lecture Program. In 1976, he spearheaded the creation of the Montana Chapter of the American Statistical Association. He later served on the ASA Constitution committee, as also as vice chair and chair of the chapter. Throughout his career his research was funded by various grants including; NSF, Montana Department of Highways Traffic Safety, Department of Health, Governor's Office of Budget and Programming, and the Montana Fisheries Division.
In 1977 Ken became the Department Head of the Department Of Mathematics. This led to several significant changes over the next several years. Dr. Tiahrt strengthened the department's research base that complemented the already exceptional teaching tradition making the department the premier research and teaching program it is today. He also changed the department name to the Department of Mathematical Sciences to emphasize the broader components of mathematics, mathematics education, and statistics. In addition, he also spear headed the creation of the M. S. Degree in Statistics and the PhD degree in Statistics both of which the Montana Board of Regents authorized in 1980. Over the years his strategic hiring decisions led to a collection of extraordinary department faculty.
Dr. Ken Tiahrt was a leader in introducing technology on the MSU campus. He arranged for the first computers for use by individual faculty and staff in most departments on the College of Letters and Science and the office of the Dean of College of Engineering. These were the first computers intended for individual faculty at MSU. He also set up the first computer lab intended for general student use at MSU. Ken retired in 1994. He was the first recipient of the Chapter Service Award from the Montana Chapter of the American Statistical association and for outstanding and dedicated services. In 2008 he was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus of Statistics by the Board of Regents of the Montana University System.
All the time he was excelling in his professional leadership, he was actively involved with his family. He was involved with the Bozeman Bees Swim Team as his children all swam for the team. They traveled and camped nearly every weekend all summer in various Montana communities for the swim meets. When a weekend was free from scheduled swim meets they spent time camping in Yellowstone, rock hunting, fishing, or just sightseeing the wonderful state they called home. Fall weekends were often spent hunting, not so much finding and shooting, but lots of time spent with whatever child was free to go along. He instilled the love of the outdoors in all his children. As the children grew he got caught up in the Nordic Ski program, biathlon and was often head timer for the races. He also got a taste of the alpine ski program. He encouraged his children to try whatever they wanted with the caveat they always try their hardest and never give up. Ken was proud that all four of his children followed their parent's foot steps into the teaching profession/three of them in the area of mathematics, two of them earning doctorate degrees. He was proud of accomplishment made by the grandchildren as well. His family seemed to come first in all that he did.
After retirement, he made time to volunteer, with his wife Nancy, for the Bozeman Senior Center, Meals on Wheels, Sweat Pea, Bozeman Antique Automobile Club and anything else people would ask of him. He was a Senior Advisor for the Bozeman City council and was very passionate about making sure Kagy Boulevard did not turn in to a four lane highway and that the Christie Ball fields were not turned in to condominiums. He spent countless hours photographing and cataloging cemetery plots of mostly forgotten small cemeteries in South Eastern South Dakota for the web. This work has provided many people access to information about ancestors they might have never have found without him. He found time to do woodworking projects, travel the world, hit the big automobile swap meets, visit family, and just enjoy life.
Ken was preceded in death by his mother Stena, his father Waldo, and his daughter Roxanna.
Ken is survived by his wife, Nancy, of 55 years and his sons; Chris (Sharon) and their girls Hazel and Persephone, Eric and his son Ari; his daughter Dianna (Jeff) Hooker and their children, Hayden, Leidy, and Kennan; his son- in-law Tim Egan; and his sister Karmen (Michael) Crowther. He loved his children and grandchildren very much.
Cremation has taken place.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from Apr. 24 to Apr. 25, 2015