Felix Haas

Felix Haas, 92

Felix Haas, Provost Emeritus of Purdue University, passed away on July 16th, 2013 in New York, at the home of his daughter, surrounded by family.

Phil was born on April 20, 1921 in Vienna, Austria. After the Nazi takeover of Austria, he was sent by his parents to live with his aunt and uncle in London in 1938. One year later. Phil immigrated to the United States and moved to New Jersey and did factory work for four years prior to joining the army. He served in the U.S. Army as General Patton's Artillery Sergeant in World War II. After the war, he was able to gain admission to MIT despite the lack of a high school degree. The GI Bill made it possible for him to afford the tuition.

In 1946 Haas entered MIT and in six years completed his bachelors degree in physics, chemistry and mathematics, and his PhD in mathematics. During his time at MIT, he managed to meet and marry his first wife Violet Bushwick. They had three children together: Richard A. Haas of Shrewsbury, MA born in 1951, Elizabeth Haas Edersheim of Scarsdale, NY born in 1954, and David R. Haas born in 1956. After teaching first at Lehigh, then Princeton, and then the University of Connecticut, he became the Chair of Mathematics at Wayne State in 1961 and then moved to Purdue University as Chair of Math in 1962.

Haas served Purdue for more than 40 years and became the first Dean of the School of Science after it was created in 1962. In that role, he helped launch the first computer science department in the country, and recruited many scientists at the cutting edge of their fields. He then served as University Provost (1972-86). As Provost, Haas commented, "I was fortunate enough to work with presidents who allowed me to look to the future, hire the best people and effect changes." He believed a university should be a place where scholars and students are free to collectively pursue their research interests and interact to serve society's needs. He felt privileged to work at a Land Grant Institution whose mission it was to give all students the opportunity to pursue higher education irrespective of their economic backgrounds.

After retiring as Provost, Felix Haas returned to Purdue as the Arthur G, Hansen Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and taught for 15 more years (1987-2002). Beginning in 1991, he taught pro-bono in exchange for a commitment from Purdue that his teaching would relieve a non-tenured female faculty member with young children of her teaching load. During this time he received awards for having the highest student rating of any mathematics professor a number of times.

As Felix Haas reminisced, "Of all of the things I have done, teaching is what I have enjoyed most. My best memories are of sparking excitement about a discipline in a student who didn't know what he or she wanted to do. That excitement is the best thing that can happen."

In 2006, Purdue renamed one of its two Computer Science buildings to honor Felix Haas. "The fact that Purdue wanted to name a building after me came as quite a surprise, but I am very much honored by this decision," Haas said.

He is survived by his second wife, Margaret, his three children, Richard, Elizabeth, and David, and seven grandchildren, Derek, Brian, Andrea, Jacob, Alvin, Claire, and Violet.

He has been a guide and inspiration to many and the family will miss him dearly. The Felix Haas Memorial Fund has been established at Purdue University to support faculty members with young children who wish to have the time to pursue their passion for scientific or applied research without having the burden of a heavy teaching load.

Donations may be made to:

The Felix Haas Memorial Fund

Purdue University

403 West Wood Street

West Lafayette, Indiana 47907

The family is holding a private graveside burial with a public memorial service planned for the Fall in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Published in the Journal & Courier on July 18, 2013