Ranjan Roy: A teacher who transformed lives

In a letter to campus, President Scott Bierman and Provost and Dean of the College Eric Boynton reflected on Professor Roy’s legacy at Beloit.

“Beloit College lost one of its brilliant teachers and scholars on Aug. 12 when Ranjan Roy died suddenly of a heart attack in Beloit.

Beloved by generations of students who said he was the best math teacher they ever had, he brought his passion and knowledge to his teaching and sparked an interest in math among students who had little confidence in the subject. He was equally a favorite among math majors and students who took his advanced mathematics courses. Students often said they would take any course at Beloit, as long as he was teaching it.

Ranjan earned his reputation as an amazing teacher by quickly learning his students’ names, then tuning into them individually to understand what they needed, and often staying in touch with them long after they graduated. His kindness and pithy humor in the classroom and beyond were legendary. Many of his former students attribute his teaching to nothing less than changing the way they think about the world. One described Ranjan as “funny and brilliant … a great combination … the kind of teacher who changes your life.”

Ranjan started his Beloit career in 1982. At the time of his death, he was the Ralph C. Huffer Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy and current chair of the Math and Computer Science Department. His family said he was looking forward to teaching this fall.

Ranjan’s life was devoted to his family and to the subject of mathematics, especially classical mathematics. He found tremendous joy working on proofs and problems with his students, and he enjoyed helping former students go into graduate studies or careers and keeping up with them over the years.

He was a prolific researcher, author, and co-author of papers and mathematics textbooks. His interests in the history of mathematics and in the lives and work of mathematicians brought a deep historical perspective to his teaching and research. Among his books is the highly praised Special Functions, co-authored with Richard Askey and George Andrews and published by Cambridge University in English, with Chinese and Russian editions.

In 2003, he was one of three professors to receive the Haimo Award, the Mathematical Association of America’s (MAA) highest national teaching honor, for those who have been “extraordinarily successful, both in their home institutions and also in a wider setting.” The MAA award citation read in part: “Professor Roy teaches mathematics as a body of ideas of great depth and beauty, and as a way of thinking which can improve the lives of all who study it …” He received Teacher of the Year honors from Beloit College in 1986 and 2000.

For all these reasons and more, the College’s Board of Trustees fully endorsed our enthusiastic recommendation and that of the Faculty Status and Performance Committee that Professor Ranjan Roy be promoted immediately to the rank of Professor Emeritus.

Ranjan is survived by Gretchen Roy, his wife of 49 years, his son Kalyan’05, daughter Maitreyi, six grandchildren, and two brothers. Our thoughts are with his family, his colleagues, and the generations of Beloit students whose lives he touched. The Roy family is planning a gathering of remembrance at a later date.”

A complete obituary can be found here.

August 14, 2020

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