In Memory of Bernard B. Morrel (1940 - 1997)


Dr. Bernard Morrel, Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences, died suddenly on May 26, 1997. Bernie Morrel was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, on November 28, 1940. He attended Gillman Preparatory School and then the University of Virginia, where he received a B.A. in 1962, an M.A. in 1966, and a Ph.D. in 1968. He was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia the same year and served there until 1975. There he met his second wife, Judy, who took a course from him as a graduate student and declared him to be the best teacher that she had ever had. He then served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University, Bloomington until 1977. He came to IUPUI as an Associate Professor in 1978 and served in this position until his death on May 26, 1997, with the exception of the year 1985-86, which he spent on sabbatical in Bloomington as a Visiting Associate Professor.

Bernie was well known among faculty and students as an excellent teacher. He served as the Course Coordinator for MATH 119 until his death, and, with Marvin L. Bittinger, he co-wrote, Applied Calculus, 2nd Edition, Addison Wesley, 1994. He served throughout his tenure on many departmental, school, and university-wide committees for promoting and planning good teaching and was always an advocate for excellence in this field. He also served on many other committees, including the Faculty Council in 1991-93, and once chaired the School of Science United Way campaign.

As a research mathematician, Bernie worked mainly in two areas: algebraic operator theory and non-abelian approximation. All of Bernie's work, but especially his work on algebraic operator theory, is characterized by elegance and a great simplicity of expression. Algebraic operator theory seeks to examine a number of relationships and concepts in operator theory defined by equations. Bernie seemed to have a knack for drawing out unsuspected consequences from the simplest of equations.

In non-abelian approximation the idea is to examine a variety of approximation questions about operators on Hilbert space. This is in contrast to the abelian approximation, which is the classical approximation by functions. This was an area of operator theory that arose from some questions posed by Paul Halmos in the 60's and was given momentum by the Romanian school in the 70's. Bernie introduced John Conway to the subject and John Conway became Bernie's principal collaborator in this area. Their work included a Memoir of the American Mathematical Society written with Domingo Herrero. But probably Bernie's best work in this circle of ideas was done with Constantin Apostol. They obtained an approximate Jordan model for all operators. John Conway looks upon it as one of the two most important results in the area, and it formed the basis for all the work that he and Bernie did together.

Bernie contributed to his discipline through the books he edited and the several conferences he organized and directed. With John B. Conway he edited three books: A Survey of Some Recent Results in Operator Theory, I, Pittman Research Notes in Mathematics, Vol. 171; A Survey of Some Recent Results in Operator Theory, II, Pittman Research Notes in Mathematics, Vol. 171; and Proceedings of the Eighth Great Plains Operator Theory Conference, Pittman Research Notes in Mathematics, Vol. 225.

Bernie's participation in activities in his church, Second Presbyterian, was very important to him. He worked closely with the minister, was the moderator of the board of deacons and was ordained an elder. At his suggestion, the church set up a small grants program. Other churches applied to them for a grant for anything from a new roof to startup funds for a food pantry. He was very proud of this program, which is still active and effective. He was also in charge of the ushers. He was on the Whitewater Valley Presbytery committee on the ministry, which made him a liaison for churches hunting for a new minister.

Bernie's accomplishments and dedication will be long remembered by those of us fortunate to have known him as colleague and friend.