Stanley Sawyer and Samuel Eddy spent a total of more than 60 years as faculty members at prestigious universities. They shared an insatiable curiosity, a relentless desire to pursue knowledge, and a deep commitment to educating students. Their unshakeable belief in the importance of their work led both to dedicate their lives to teaching and research—and their estates to supporting Arts & Sciences at Washington University.
Distinguished Researcher, Supportive Mentor
When Ann Podleski, MA ’81, PhD ’96, was finishing her doctorate in mathematics at Washington University in the mid-1990s, she juggled that work with the demands of a full-time position as a professor at Harris-Stowe State University. After spending her days teaching students, she dedicated her evenings to working on her dissertation with guidance from her faculty adviser, Professor Stanley Sawyer.
“I could go to Stan’s office or call him at 11 p.m., and he would be there to help me,” she says. “He was extremely kind, patient, and interested in my work. The human capital he invested in me inspires me to give the same things to my students every day.”
Before his death in August 2017, Mr. Sawyer committed capital of a different kind to extend his legacy in the Department of Mathematics. Through an estate gift, he contributed funds for the department to establish professorships in statistics, his area of expertise.
“This gift will help us recruit and retain outstanding faculty members and strengthen our statistics group,” says John McCarthy, chair of the Department of Mathematics. “That will have a big impact on our ability to collaborate with colleagues across the university and meet the increased demand for training students in the field.”
Born in Juneau, Alaska, Mr. Sawyer earned a doctorate in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1964. He held faculty positions at New York University, Brown University, Yeshiva University, the University of Washington, and Purdue University before coming to Washington University in 1984. He served as a professor in the mathematics department until his retirement in 2013. He also held faculty appointments in the School of Medicine.
“This gift will help us recruit and retain outstanding faculty members and strengthen our statistics group. That will have a big impact on our ability to collaborate with colleagues across the university and meet the increased demand for training students in the field.”John McCarthy, chair of the Department of Mathematics
During his time at Washington University, Mr. Sawyer increasingly focused his research efforts on genetics and evolutionary biology. He developed a fruitful partnership with Daniel Hartl, former head of genetics at the School of Medicine and now a faculty member at Harvard University. In the early 1990s, they developed an innovative mathematical model to estimate natural selection pressures and mutation rates in genes. Mr. Sawyer went on to create a widely used computer program to analyze DNA and identify gene conversions.
Mr. Sawyer’s friends and colleagues describe him as a polymath—a person whose knowledge and interests span a variety of subjects. “When Stanley got interested in something, he would lay his hands on every book he could find on the topic and become a real expert,” says Victor Wickerhauser, professor of mathematics.
After studying the validity of DNA fingerprinting, he often served as an expert witness at criminal trials. And after learning the TeX markup language to typeset papers containing complicated formulas, he wrote a guidebook on the system with Washington University mathematics professor Steven Krantz.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Sawyer published 80 scholarly articles. He taught a wide range of mathematics courses and mentored 12 doctoral students and many master’s degree candidates.
Professor Wickerhauser says Mr. Sawyer completed paperwork to direct his estate to the mathematics department shortly before his death. “He didn’t have any close relatives, and I think he decided Washington University was his family.”
The gift will have a lasting influence on the department, Mr. Wickerhauser adds. “Stanley was one of the most charming human beings I have ever met,” he says. “He was a person who had an enormous capacity to enjoy life and to understand it. He was a huge asset to the department and an all-around fine individual.”
From Alumnus to Celebrated Professor
Like Professor Sawyer, alumnus Samuel Eddy, AB ’50, MA ’51, possessed a deep curiosity that informed his work as a scholar and teacher. A longtime professor of classical history, he pursued a broad range of historical interests. “He constantly investigated new scholarship and documents to add depth and human color to his knowledge and the content of his courses,” says Emeritus Professor Frederick Marquardt, who was his colleague at Syracuse University.
According to Mr. Marquardt, Mr. Eddy once studied the use of tree rings in California to trace climate change as far back as 650 B.C. He correlated that information with historic evidence to identify periods of prolonged drought that could have contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire.
Also like Professor Sawyer, Mr. Eddy, who died in April 2015, had a deep commitment to his profession and to Washington University that led him to make a significant gift through his estate to benefit Arts & Sciences. The funds will be used to support professorships and teaching or research in history.
A St. Louis native, Mr. Eddy earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history at Washington University, where he wrote his master’s thesis on the Roman imperial enlightenment. After earning his doctorate in ancient history at the University of Michigan, he served as a faculty member at the University of Nebraska and the University of California, Santa Barbara before joining the history department at Syracuse University in 1966. He retired as an emeritus professor in 1999.
“Professor Eddy’s support for our professors and their students will enhance our efforts to generate new knowledge and train the next generation of scholars.”Peter Kastor, chair of the Department of History
Mr. Eddy taught sweeping surveys of ancient Greek and Roman history as well as courses on European history, including a research seminar on the origins of World War I. He was a superb lecturer, Mr. Marquardt says. “His presentations were lucid, supported by just the right amount of factual detail, illustrated by colorful personalities, and colored by biting, irreverent humor.” One student described him in a course evaluation as “a combination of Albert Einstein and Jack Benny.”
Mr. Eddy drew students into historical material and challenged them to think about the relevance of past events in the present. His work will continue through his generous bequest to Washington University.
“This is an enormous gift for our department and our students,” says Peter Kastor, chair of the Department of History. “Endowed professorships enable the university to recruit exceptional faculty members who in turn attract great students to our campus. And additional funding for graduate education will enable us to help our students in wonderful new ways. Professor Eddy’s support for our professors and their students will enhance our efforts to generate new knowledge and train the next generation of scholars.”