Illinois Tech Mourns the Passing of Longtime Applied Math Professor Maurice J. Frank Jr.



By Casey Moffitt

The Department of Applied Mathematics at Illinois Institute of Technology mourns the passing of Maurice “Jerry” Frank Jr., professor emeritus of applied mathematics, who passed away in Evanston, Illinois, on February 13, 2023.

Frank (M.S. MATH ’69, Ph.D. ’72), joined the applied mathematics faculty at Illinois Tech in 1976 and continued his teaching and research career until 2008, when he achieved emeritus status. After graduating from Illinois Tech, Frank began teaching at University of Massachusetts Amherst and then at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Four years after earning his Ph.D. at Illinois Tech, Frank returned to his alma mater and his favorite city to become a professor. His tenure included inspired teaching, authoring publications, international speaking engagements, and serving as the department’s chair. He also served on numerous administrative committees to help Illinois Tech students, community members, and high school students.

Notably, he helped to establish the annual Karl Menger Lecture and Awards program. The event honors the legacy of Karl Menger, an inspirational and innovative applied mathematics professor at Illinois Tech. The celebration attracts many alumni and friends, and spotlights the research and achievements of applied mathematics students.

Frank published numerous research papers during his career, as well as co-authoring Associative Functions: Triangular Norms and Copulas in 2006 with Claudi Alsina from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, and Berthold Schweizer from UMASS Amherst. The book presents the foundations of a subject that in recent years has provided increasingly important mathematical tools for several areas of study: statistical and financial modeling, fuzzy sets and systems theory, risk assessment, multi-valued and quantum logic, hydrology, and the theory of functional equations. It brings together and extends results from the widely scattered literature and adds a great deal of new material.

A substantial portion of the book is based on notions that originated from Illinois Tech’s applied mathematics department in the late 1950s and whose development has continued at the university ever since. Triangular norms arose naturally from Menger’s ideas about probabilistic geometry. Copulas, or linking probability distributions, are part of the work of Abe Sklar, professor emeritus in the Department of Applied Mathematics.

Frank is remembered for his fierce wit and sense of humor, his recall for any piece of trivia, specifically about United States presidents. He could beat even the best wordsmith in a game of Scrabble, and rarely was stumped by a crossword. Frank was a lover of classical music, and he and his wife, Pat were proud sponsors of many emerging performers at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which he frequented. An avid traveler, Frank explored the world. Whether by speaking at mathematics conferences or on vacation, Frank made friends wherever he went and enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy local traditions, especially food.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Patricia Frank, and his children Beth (nee Palmquist) Silverstein (Ray) and Theo Frank. Frank was the adoring grandfather to Leslie Abbyad (Xander), David Silverstein (Emma), and Jane Silverstein (Kai Squires).