Richard S. Ellis (1947 - 2018)

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  • "I am very saddened to hear this news of Richard's passing. ..."
    - Richard Jordan
  • "I had one or two math classes with Richard at UMass..."
    - Steve Greenbaum
  • "I remember Richard from my days at BLS.... My deepest..."
    - Abraham Bornstein MD FACC
  • "Our very sincere sympathy to all,,,,we will be with you in..."
    - Sheldon/Irma Zieper
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AMHERST - Richard S. Ellis died on Monday, July 2, 2018, in New York City after a valiant struggle with bile duct cancer, with which he was diagnosed in February 2017. He was 71.
Richard was born in Brookline in 1947 to Helen (Fingerman) and Murray Ellis and grew up in Boston. He attended Boston Latin School and then Harvard, graduating in 1969, where he majored in mathematics and German literature. He earned a Ph.D. at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, graduating in 1972.
Richard began his research and teaching career at Northwestern University in 1972. He became a professor in the department of mathematics and statistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1975. He also taught classes about Judaism and the Torah at UMass, as an adjunct professor of Judaic studies, and elsewhere.
Richard met his wife Alison (Feinberg) at her 16th birthday party in the summer of 1963. It was love at first sight. Richard and Alison married in 1969 and recently celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary together.
Richard, Alison, and their two children, Melissa and Michael, lived together in Israel three times in the 1980s in both Haifa and Jerusalem, and visited many additional times. In Israel, they discovered and reconnected with extended family and made lifelong friends.
Richard published two research-level mathematics books, numerous research papers, and a book about meditation. He was a pioneer in the area of probability theory known as large deviations and proved an important theorem in this field, the Gärtner-Ellis Theorem. Professionally, he was most proud of having inspired and mentored many undergraduate and graduate students across his 45-year career as a professor. Always trying to help others, he was proud of having brought meditation to his classroom.
Both professionally and personally, Richard radiated calm and joy. He was passionate about Judaism and Torah, Hebrew and Israel, mathematics, meditation, bicycling, poetry and language, jazz and the music of Bach, dark coffee and travel. He was always eager to share whatever he happened to be studying at the time.
But above all else, he was most passionate about and took the greatest pleasure in his family. He was a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and brother. He is survived by his wife Alison; his children, Melissa and Michael; their spouses, Ken and Lauren; his grandchildren, Noah, Lilah, Isaac and Rose; his brother and sister-in-law, Ronald and Danielle; his sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Sheila and Alan; and many nieces, nephews, and friends - all of whose love and friendship he cherished.
A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 6, at the Jewish Community of Amherst, 742 Main St. Burial will take place immediately afterwards, at the JCA cemetery at 222 Leverett Road, Shutesbury. The family will be sitting shiva in Amherst through Monday. Donations in Richard's memory may be made to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation.
Funeral Home
Ascher Zimmerman Funeral Home, Inc.
44 Sumner Avenue
Springfield, MA 01108
(413) 734-5229
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on July 5, 2018
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