Evelyn M. Silvia
Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus
1948 — 2006
Evelyn Silvia, professor of mathematics at UC Davis, died peacefully in her sleep early in the morning of January 21, 2006, at Woodland Memorial Hospital, following a courageous battle with ovarian cancer.
She was born on February 8th, 1948 in Fall River, Massachusetts. She received her Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1973 from Clark University. In 1973 she joined the faculty at UC Davis, where she spent her entire career as a professor of mathematics. She is survived by her husband Doyle Cutler, a professor emeritus of mathematics at UC Davis.
Evelyn was dedicated to excellence in teaching mathematics at all levels. In 2000 she received the Mathematics Association of America (MAA) Sectional Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics, and in 2001 she was presented with the MAA National Teaching Award (Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics), the most prestigious honor the mathematics profession bestows for teaching and related activities. She was a recipient of the UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award in 1990. She was the recipient of multiple grants related to teaching mathematics to students in grades K to 12, including a million-dollar National Science Foundation award enabling UC Davis students and K-12 math and science teachers to work together to conduct classroom-based inquiry research. The work under that grant was ongoing at the time of her death.
Evelyn gave unselfishly of her time and expertise to her family, friends, students, the university and the mathematics community. She directed the Master of Arts in Teaching Program in Mathematics at UC Davis for many years. Commenting on this aspect of Evelyn’s career after her death, Nancy Davis, Undergraduate Coordinator for the Mathematics Department wrote:
“Evelyn poured her soul into the MAT students. After taking over that program, she seemed to be in perpetual motion. Math education was very important to her, and she wanted to assure that the next generation of math teachers was well prepared. Not only did she spend every waking hour (seemingly) working on issues for and with the MAT students, but she worked with current teachers at workshops during the summer to help them better their math teaching skills as well. Her passion for math and teaching was obvious.”
Evelyn often commented that the one thing that she did for herself, was her research. Professor Evelyn Silvia’s research was in complex analysis with particular emphasis in geometric function theory. She studied extremal and general growth behavior of complex analytic functions that satisfy various geometric and/or coefficient restrictions. A unifying theme of her work was the preservation and transmission of geometric properties such as starlikeness, convexity and spiral-likeness.
Some of Evelyn’s most recent papers concern classes of functions that are related to an interesting subclass, D, of convex functions that was originally considered by St. Ruscheweyh. Silvia and Silverman determined the largest dilation factor d(a) such that f(d(a))/d(a ) is guaranteed to be in class D, assuming that f itself is either convex of order a or satisfies Re(f’(z))>a. Other related works look at integral and convolution (Hadamard product) characterizations of classes related to D.
Evelyn also contributed to work on convex null sequences. A decreasing sequence of real numbers is called convex null if it converges to zero and if each term is less than or equal to the average of the two adjacent terms. A classical result of Fejer relates these sequences to coefficients of functions with positive real part. Evelyn’s work gave a class of functions for which preservation properties could be proved using facts about convex null sequences in addition to offering a new general theoretical construct along with meaningful applications.
Evelyn's service to the university was unparalleled in its quantity and quality. In fall 2000 as part of their review of Evelyn for advancement, the Department of Mathematics counted the number of administrative and Academic Senate committees she had served on from the time she was promoted to Professor in 1984. The astounding result was that she had served on more than 220 of these committees, and had served as chair or head of 40 of them! In addition, she served as the Director of the UC Davis Teaching Resources Center, Secretary of the Academic Senate and Head Advisor for the Math Department during that period.
Once she received tenure, Evelyn served on a committee for the Academic Senate almost every year she was on campus. She was a member of the extremely vital Committee on Academic Planning and Budget from 1990 to 1992 and was twice on the Executive Council. She was elected to the Committee on Committees in 1997 and served for three years. She was the Davis Divisional Representative to the Systemwide UC Academic Senate from 2001 to 2003.
Her expertise and commitment were notable. Evelyn chaired the Student-Faculty Relationships Committee in 1985-86. She then served on the Undergraduate Preparatory and Remedial Education committee from 1987 to 1990. Throughout the 1990s (from 1994 to 1999) she chaired the committee on Admissions and Enrollment and then continued as a member from 2003 to 2005. In 2000-2001, she was a member of the Affirmative Action and Diversity committee. In all cases, she was prudent, reliable, fair and considerate of all issues. Her colleagues are grateful for her years of dedicated service.
Anyone who served on a committee with Evelyn quickly learned that she was not there to add another name to her list of committees. She was always completely prepared for meetings. She read and analyzed all committee materials and always had constructive input. Many of us learned how to be good committee members by watching Evelyn in action.
One of Evelyn’s passions was to help women succeed in academia. For many years she coordinated an informal support group to which all UCD women faculty were invited, called the Faculty Women’s Research Support Group. With contributions from many other women faculty, she authored a report entitled “Collegial Advice for Assistant Professors: Hints for Success and Stress Reduction as an Assistant Professor,” featured on the website of the UC Davis Vice Provost for Academic Personnel. Some comments from women faculty upon hearing about her passing reflect the esteem with which she is held: “Her influence on faculty development extended far beyond her wildest dreams. Women whom she probably never even heard of used the wisdom she passed on.” and “I am very sad to hear of Evelyn's death. Her presence at UCD mattered a lot to me. I always appreciated her frankness, her pragmatism, her dedication, and her fiery spirit. She was truly unique. I guess I thought if someone like her could survive in academia then I could too.”
Evolution and Ecology Professor Maureen Stanton said of her:
“Evelyn was a warrior. There are always many battles to be fought, and in each and every battle, Evelyn tirelessly championed the side of justice, tolerance, and equal opportunity. She was very active in recruiting those less motivated, like myself, into those battles, and in doing so effected important changes on our campus. I always marveled at Evelyn’s apparent ability to be in two places at once, both leading the charge and gently lashing us from the rear. Perhaps this amazing feat was possible because of her expertise in geometrical transformation.”
Wendy Silk, Professor of Land, Air and Water Resources noted that:
“Evelyn changed the face of our university. She campaigned energetically to have women represented on the important university committees; she counseled us individually and cheered on the group support network; she remained vigilant in protesting any gender-based inequities that surfaced. Her demands for fair treatment gradually improved the status of women at the university and contributed immeasurably to our self esteem.”
An endowed scholarship has been established in Professor Silvia’s name. The Evelyn M. Silvia Scholarship supports juniors or seniors majoring in math or statistics who plan to teach mathematics at the K-12 grade levels.