Dr. Ben Carse Nolting

Dr. Ben Carse Nolting

February 19, 1982 - August 2, 2020

Annie and Joe Nolting sadly share the devastating news that their son Ben succumbed to his 23-year battle with anorexia nervosa. He fought long and courageously, but on August 2, 2020, he died in his home in Henderson, Nevada.

Ben was born in Sitka, Alaska, on February 19, 1982. During his infancy the local Tlingit tribe adopted him as a member of the Kiksadi clan. Growing up in Palmer and the Matanuska Valley, Ben spent much time outdoors climbing mountains and exploring the alpine tundra. He developed an intense curiosity about and deep appreciation for wildlife and the natural world, which eventually led to his career path in mathematical biology.

Ben attended the University of Alaska Anchorage. There he earned a BS in mathematics and, on the basis of his innovative research, was awarded the prestigious Goldwater Award. He would go on to more acclaim at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) where he went to grad school studying theoretical ecology and applied mathematics.

At UNL, his life and career blossomed. He made many wonderful friends among the faculty and graduate students. His math advisor, Dr. J. David Logan, said this about Ben, "…I saw in him an incredible curiosity and an unusual ability to solve complex problems… The compassion and skill he had for science and mathematics was firmly established when he won the best research paper award by a graduate student at the annual meeting of the ESA (Ecological Society of America). His teaching skills were outstanding. His PhD dissertation on random foraging was top-notch and earned him a post-doc at Case Western Reserve."

Following his graduation with a Ph.D. in 2013, Ben joined Dr. Karen Abbott and her lab group at Case Western conducting research in the field of mathematical biology. Karen wrote this about Ben, "…in addition to being remarkable as a human being, he was an extremely talented scientist. The major paper that he published from his time in my lab has received a lot of attention and is shaping how ecologists think about certain foundational ideas in our field. He established himself as an influential thinker and theorist, and that part of him will certainly live on in all the future work his ideas will inspire."

Dr. Chris Moore, a research colleague at Case shared this, "Ben was an applied mathematician and theoretical ecologist, and one of the kindest, thoughtful people I have ever met. Ben was brilliant and an infinitely-patient teacher and mentor to me and others, from undergrads to postdocs. All of us who knew him could speak to how Ben created a safe and open environment for learning and exchanging ideas. His colleagues all remember his willingness to help others and his generosity of spirit."

Following his post-doctorate experience, Ben worked as a math professor at California State University Chico and most recently at Nevada State College in Henderson. Here too he mentored students far beyond what was required in the classroom. While he was teaching, his research never flagged, and he supported and collaborated with researchers all over the world including Iran, Japan, China, and South Africa. His research and publications in this burgeoning and important field may be viewed at http://www.bennolting.org/

Despite his severe physical and mental health challenges, Ben embraced life fully. He loved his cat Higgs, rap music, political podcasts, all things history, and sports (especially Cornhusker football). He was a defender of social justice and his passion for the environment was unswerving, both personally and professionally. He embraced a deep spiritual interior life and believed in the power of prayer.

Ben's Aunt Elizabeth wrote, "He was a candle that burned at both ends, his tremendous love of the wonders of mathematics, and his equally tremendous loving understanding of people. He died from living with an enthusiasm that is seldom matched."

Ben leaves behind his parents Annie and Joe Nolting of Bellingham, WA, and a large and loving extended clan of his Grandpa Nolting, aunts, uncles, and cousins, in addition to good friends throughout the country, and his cherished colleagues from UNL and Case Western.

A fund to honor and remember Ben has been established at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Donations will help students of color, international students, and other underrepresented students and aspiring teachers pursue their studies in mathematics. Contributions may be made to the Dr. Ben Carse Nolting Student Support Fund at: https://nufoundation.org/fund/01153370/


Published by Lincoln Journal Star on Aug. 20, 2020.
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20 Entries
Wow, I just found this out today. He was my STAT 391 professor at Nevada State College in 2019. I looked his name up to make sure I was spelling it correctly in an e-mail. I am deeply saddened to learn of this news because I planned on continuing conversations with him when I started taking more classes involving mathematics. I will repeat here what I said in that e-mail:

"His teaching inspired me to learn more about statistics because it's so interesting and useful and he's the first math teacher that showed me I was not necessarily bad at math! I thought I was going to do awful in his class, and was discouraged by a math teacher in high school to even take statistics! I feel I even excelled in his STAT 391!"

He is the entire reason I started thinking about stuff like minoring (maybe even majoring) in Data Science, and taking statistics and bioinformatics courses.

I remember always feeling welcome in his class; he will be greatly missed.
Amanda Ecret
Student
April 9, 2021
It is with greatest sympathy and sorrow that I write in learning of Ben´s passing. Ben was my Differential Equations teacher at UNL when I was an undergraduate, and played a vital role as my mentor, supporting me throughout my career in preparing for graduate school and beyond. He was a remarkable human being; always with a kind, patient, humble and encouraging character, a genuine desire to help others with undivided attention, a dry sense of humor that brightened the room, and a talent of teaching complex problems with clarity in a way that was engaging and exuded raw enthusiasm for the subject matter. Such a loss. Such an impact he has had on so many who had the honor of knowing him. Such an inspirational figure to remember.
Jessica Burow
December 24, 2020
I never met Ben but he sounds like a lovely person. My brother, who was a high school friend of his father, Joe, sent me Ben's obituary. I just wanted to send my condolences to his family. Ben's life sounds so inspiring. He accomplished so much and he obviously was deeply loved. I wanted to reach out to his family to tell them how sorry I am for their loss.
Beth Stinebring
Beth Stinebring
September 30, 2020
In 2018, my colleague and I had an issue with running some codes in Mathematica software, this made me seek help from the online community support for Mathematica - I saw one of the responses of Professor Nolting to a problem in 2014. I wrote an e-mail to him due to the kind way he responded.

An acquaintance ensued and I wrote to him to mentor me professionally. The kindness with which he attends to e-mails endeared me to him. We were planning to work together for a postdoc when his Mom sent me an e-mail regarding his passing. I was shocked to read it due to how nice and simple Professor Ben Nolting has been since we began talking.

This is indeed a great and painful loss. He is such a gifted academic, always kind and ready to assist.
Samuel Surulere
Student
September 5, 2020
Ben was a member of the editorial board of the PUMP Journal of Undergraduate Research, a mathematics journal publishing papers with at least one undergraduate student author. He served as an editor and reviewer for two years, first from his position at Chico State, then as faculty at Nevada State College and finally as unaffiliated until late March of this year. At that time he had to resign after accepting a non-academic job and contemplating a move across the country in the middle of the Covid pandemic. I worked with with Ben on several projects and had many interactions with him. He fully supported our mission to publish papers written by students aspiring to go to graduate school, many of them belonging to underrepresented minorities. His hard work, attention to detail, and expertise in a great variety of fields, from math biology to statistics and ecology were extremely valuable to the journal. But above all he had a great deal of empathy for everybody, authors, editors and reviewers, and I learned from him how to be a better and kinder person. His name is listed as a former member of the editorial board of the journal at https://journals.calstate.edu/pump/about/editorialTeam since March 28, 2020.
Serban Raianu
Coworker
September 4, 2020
I never met Ben except when he was a baby but I knew his wonderful parents in Sitka, AK. It does not surprise me that Ben went on to be the special person he obviously was. Ben was an outdoor baby the day he was conceived as Annie and Joe were living in a tent in that time period and always were biking and hiking and soaking up life. Bless
mary hilfiker
Family
September 3, 2020
I met Ben at a MAA (Mathematical Association of America) meeting in Anchorage in June 2004. "I was astonished at the high level of mathematics being presented by Ben. I was equally astonished at the professional presentation and, most of all, his answers to questions afterward. He clearly knew what he was talking about and was able to explain it clearly. In my 35 years of teaching here at the University of Oregon I have seen a few outstanding undergraduates, but none of them made the impression on me that Ben did. Ben is already a young mathematician with a very bright future." I never met Ben again, but I did write a VERY strong reference for him for a Goldwater Scholarship, which he received. The quote above is from my Nov. 2, 2004 letter. If you're interested in seeing the entire letter, contact me at [email protected]
Ken Ross
Acquaintance
September 2, 2020
I was so sorry to hear about Ben's passing. He was an exceptional graduate student and our program definitely benefited from having him in it. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Judy Walker
September 2, 2020
Annie and Joe,

So very sorry to hear about Ben. Such an amazing person, not only brilliant and accomplished but kind and thoughtful as well. My memories of him are happy ones, beginning when he and my son Adam met at age 3 when they were attending preschool at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Wasilla. They also spent many fun filled hours together playing "Star Trek" and other imaginative games. Through his gifts and kindness, Ben left a legacy to be proud of. Take care, you all are in my thoughts.

Sherry Davis
Sherry Davis
August 31, 2020
I was so sorry to hear about Ben. I became friends with Ben through an online book club and while I was going through a Teacher Credential program. When I was struggling, he was always available to talk to and to make me feel better. As a student, I struggled with math and Bend helped me understand it and better yet how to teach it. For that I will always be thankful. The world has lost an amazing person who would go out of their way to be kind, thoughtful and helpful towards others. My deepest condolences love to her family and loved one.
Nadia Carter
Friend
August 27, 2020
Dear Joe and Annie, I am so very sorry to hear about your son Ben. What a remarkable life he led and what a great loss. I hope that your identifying anorexia will encourage people to learn more about this devastating illness. Clearly, he was so much more than his illness. Take good care of yourselves and cherish your memories.
Sally Ross
Sally Ross
August 24, 2020
I am so saddened to hear about Ben. He was always a kind soul who had a brilliant mind. Back in high school, he was one of my favorite people to proofread my papers because he was always forthright and fair in his critiques. I will always remember him fondly. My deepest condolences for your loss.
Ryan Mudd
Friend
August 22, 2020
Anne and Joe, I am deeply saddened to hear about Ben. I was introduced to Ben by my daughter. He came into our home and brought so much joy, he was lovingly given the name “Nen” by my grandson. Ben was one of the kindest, thoughtful men I have ever met. A young man with such a gently spirit. Although you knew his intelligence far exceeded most he was interested in everyone’s Opinions. We had wonderful conversations and Loved your son. With deepest sympathy, Leigh
Leigh Wahl
Friend
August 22, 2020
I’m so sorry to hear of Ben’s passing. I will always remember the motivational challenge that Ben was to me in our early education as well as the great opponent he was on the basketball court as he was one of few who was tall enough to defend me. I know he is greatly missed.
Jerilynn Kohring
Classmate
August 21, 2020
Joe and Annie, Our hearts go out to you with deep and sincere sympathy, Chip and Mary Chiappinelli
Chip and Mary Chiappinelli
Friend
August 21, 2020
Ben was one of the most genuinely kind, generous and considerate people I've ever known. He was also over-the-top smart, curious about everything around him, and always interesting to talk to. He was well-liked by everybody who was lucky enough to get to know him, and he will be missed.
Richard L Rebarber
August 21, 2020
I am so very sorry Annie and Joe. Ben had a huge impact on my life. He was a thoughtful, caring, supportive, and incredibly selfless friend and colleague. We sat within an arm's reach of each other for just over 2 years. We became close over that period of time, and shared and learned a lot from each other. What I remember most prominently about his personality is his laughter and infectious smile. We laughed a LOT. But we were also serious and worked well together too: thinking and sketching out problems, listening, and giving constructive, respectful feedback. We used to take regular walks to grab coffee at Pete's on campus and periodically spend the lunch hour by Wade Lagoon in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art. We used to compete to pay at Pete's, and I am sure that he outwitted and outcompeted me enough times that I owe him a lot of coffee. Ben was very generous. He was a kind and good person and was successful in raising up and brining joy the others around him. I am so happy and lucky to have known him and am heartbroken for our loss. I am so sorry.
Chris Moore
August 20, 2020
I remember him well from when I was an assistant professor at UNL. A very talented math biology student. I'm so, so sorry to learn this news.
Carina Curto
August 20, 2020
So sorry for your loss Annie and Joe. He was an exceptional individual.
Gale & Beth Fechik
Friend
August 20, 2020
Ben had a endless enthusiasm for applications of mathematics to ecology. He would poor all of his energy into working through the details of research, honing sharp insights that were well communicated. What I respected even more was how he brought along the community of people around him. For example, a chapter of his thesis was co-authored with another graduate student, and both included it in each of their theses. That never happens because graduate committees always want to identify the lead author. In this case, all were in agreement that they were both lead authors because the collaboration of ideas and effort was so intertwined it would be a disservice to try and parse it. Ben took that same passion and focus in his role as an educator. He fretted over the best way to teach future elementary teachers the basic mathematics they would need to teach their future elementary students. Ben was not a math elitist, he was interested in bringing math to everyone. His willingness to dissect and work through an analysis was appreciated by his research colleagues. His supportive nod and his warm smile was appreciated by everyone. I will miss him. I am glad to have shared some great years with him.
Chad Brassil
August 20, 2020
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