Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus
When Robert Sorgenfrey died on January 6, 1995, UCLA lost one of its most devoted sons. Bob entered UCLA as a freshman in 1933 and received his undergraduate degree four years later in Mathematics and Physics. In 1942, after graduate studies at the Univ. of Texas followed by a one-year instructorship at Case Institute of Technology, he returned to Westwood as a temporary Instructor. He pursued his entire academic career at UCLA, retiring as a full Professor in 1979.
Bob's record of contributions to UCLA, both to the campus as a whole and to the Department of Mathematics, is outstanding. Of the many positions he held, both in the Academic Senate and the College of Letters and Sciences, probably the most challenging was his service as Secretary of the Academic Senate during the height of the loyalty-oath controversy. Throughout his long career, university administrators counted on Bob's energy, efficiency and good sense in a great variety of roles, from Secretary of the Faculty of Letters and Sciences to a term of service on the Budget Committee, the predecessor the present Committee on Academic Personnel.
Bob played a crucial role in the development of the Department of Mathematics, from the postwar years on. Not long after he joined the faculty, Bob became the department's sole advisor for the department's majors, of which there were already more than one hundred, as well as Scheduling Officer with the responsibility for assigning faculty to the department's courses. As the department grew, these tasks evolved into a more official status, first as Assistant to the Chairman and then as the department's first Vice-Chairman.
Bob's administrative talents and intimate knowledge of the details of departmental operations made him the right-hand man of successive department chairs.
As one of the department's most outstanding teachers, it was no surprise when, in 1963, Bob was the first mathematician to receive the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award. Immediately after the war, during which there had been very little instruction at the graduate level, Bob and a colleague instituted a highly successful and innovative graduate course in topology. Bob had written his Ph. D. dissertation under R. L. Moore, a topologist as famous for his unusual teaching style as for his great success in training generations of the world's best scholars in that field. The key feature of the "Moore method" is to challenge the students to recreate mathematical discoveries with a minimum of help from the instructor. Bob taught his version of the method in this required graduate course for many years with great success. Later, he developed an undergraduate topology course which, in spite of its reputation as one of the most difficult courses offered by the department, was very popular with the mathematics majors, at least when Bob taught it.
At the lower-division level, Bob had a particular interest in the basic calculus course for students majoring in engineering and the physical sciences. He would generally teach the entire first-year sequence in order and sometimes follow that with the second-year sequence the next year. Students often arranged their entire course schedules quarter by quarter in order to stay with Bob through as much of the calculus sequence as possible. Bob's student following is easy to understand when one reads their evaluations praising his clear, concise lectures enlivened with humor and his deep concern that all his students do their best. His examinations were often characterized as "comprehensive" by the better students and "long" by the less talented, but all emphasized the fairness of his testing and grading.
Bob's interest in teaching extended well beyond his UCLA courses. He played an active role in the Master of Arts in Teaching degree program that prepared graduate students for high school and community college teaching. During the foreign travels that he and his wife Bernardine so much enjoyed, where they pursued interests that ranged from fine dining to bird-watching, he made contacts with people active in the local secondary education programs. His concern with the teaching of mathematics in high school eventually led him to a very active career as author of successful texts at that level. The range of his activities in mathematics education went all the way from acting as consultant to his publisher on arithmetic texts for elementary-grade students to supervising several Ph. D. students in topology.
Bob's most notable research accomplishment was his discovery of the "Sorgenfrey Line". In a very brief paper that is considered one of the classics of the topological literature, he solved a problem that had defeated many of the best topologists. Although the real numbers equipped with the half-open interval topology is a normal space, Bob proved by an ingenious argument that its topological product with itself is no longer normal. This example of the failure of a fundamental topological property to be preserved by a basic construction in the subject offers a deep insight into the very nature of topology. Not only did the discovery of the Sorgenfrey Line lead to considerable further research in the foundations of topology, but it has become a permanent part of every mathematics student's topological tool kit.
Aside from his professional career, Bob and his wife enjoyed a very active social life and had many good friends. The Sorgenfreys were avid bridge players and enjoyed participating over the years in the UCLA Faculty Women's Club duplicate bridge tournaments. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues and friends both within and outside the Mathematics Department.
Edward Bradford Burns
Professor of History, Emeritus
Anyone who knew Brad Burns was surely struck by his enthusiasm. This was his most enduring and endearing quality and the one that he brought to bear on just about all he did. Whether teaching or pursuing research, administering programs or serving professional organizations, training graduate assistants or debating political issues, hunting for rare books or decorating his home with craftsman furniture, attending the opera or entertaining guests, or conversing with students, colleagues, and friends, his enthusiasm seemed boundless. He was a person who cared about what he was doing and about those with whom he interacted. His lectures and speeches, always well prepared and well crafted, displayed a passion too often lacking in academe today. He was effective in drawing students into his field of Latin American history and sought to rally others to his point of view. Perhaps because of the Iowan populist traditions from which he sprang, he remained a defender of the downtrodden of the world and did not shirk from what he saw as his political responsibility to speak out. He was indeed an engagé rather than an ivory-tower intellectual. Clearly, his professional and personal lives reflected the wide range of his interests and the balance of enthusiasms which they spawned.
Brad was a prolific writer and a magnetic speaker. His more than 10 books, articles, chapters, prefaces, reviews, and opinion pieces as well as his hundreds of oral presentations were aimed at a variety of academic and public audiences. From his first book on Latin American history, The Unwritten Alliance: Rio-Branco and Brazilian-American Relations (1966), for which he received the Bolton Prize, to his last, Patriarch and Folk: The Emergence of Nicaragua, 1798-1858 (1991), he tackled an unusual breadth of topics. While maintaining a general focus on Latin America, his primary concentration shifted over the years between Brazil and Central America, driven in part by the historical questions he hoped to fathom and in part by the dramatic impact of contemporary political events. He also explored the uses of film and photographs as historical documents. Repeatedly, however, he was attracted to such themes as nationalism, dependency, folk and popular culture, imperialism, and poverty. He also remained basically an intellectual historian, who approached his subjects, whether political, economic, or social, from that underlying point of view.
Brad’s academic achievements were widely recognized in the United States by means of Carnegie, Rotary, NDEA, Cordell Hull, For, Rockefeller, Doherty, Fulbright, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation fellowships. He received a UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, a Hubert Herring Memorial Award from the Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies, an Award for Distinguished Scholarly Reporting in a Non-Academic Periodical from the Latin American Studies Association, and was named an Honorary Associate of Immaculate Heart College Center and a Distinguished Visitor by Oberlin College.
Abroad, the Brazilian government conferred upon him the Order of Rio Branco in 1966, and he was elected one of only two corresponding members of the Institute Histórico e Geogràfico Brasileiro in 1969. At times his polemical writings brought him further national recognition-even notoriety. Even before the publication of his book, At War with Nicaragua: The Reagan Doctrine and the Politics of Nostalgia (1987), a brief article on the Sandinistas led to a public condemnation from President Reagan and even an appearance on "Nightline," thus giving him, as Brad himself put it, his very own "fifteen minutes of fame," in the well-known phrase of Andy Warhol.
His institutional contributions were also prodigious. Brad enjoyed working hard and felt a strong commitment to program building at UCLA and more broadly in the fields of history and Latin American studies. After completing his education (B.A., University of Iowa, 1954; M.A., Tulane University, 1955; Ph.D., Columbia University, 1964) and following two years of teaching at Rutgers University and the SUNY at Buffalo, he came to the UCLA History Department as an assistant professor in 1964. Other than a brief interlude at Columbia (1967-1969), he spent the remainder of his career at UCLA, retiring as a full professor in 1993. From the outset he was known as a gifted lecturer, and his courses grew steadily in popularity among undergraduate students, many of whom he inspired to major in history. His lower division surveys typically drew 300400 students and his specialized course on Brazil about 200. At the graduate level, at least five students each year benefited from their apprenticeships as his teaching assistants, and by the summer of 1995 dozens had completed Ph.D. dissertations under his direction. His university committee service ranged from Chicano studies to the Film and Television Archive, but his participation in Latin American Center programs was continuous and productive. From 1979 to 1983, he served as the first dean of the Honors Division in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. Off campus his tireless efforts to promote teaching and research in Latin American Studies and history were highlighted by his presidencies of the Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies in 1973-1974 and of the Pacific Coast branch of the American Historical Association in 1993-1994.
Brad remained involved with people and projects until the very end. His book Kinship with the Land: Regionalist Thought in Iowa, in 1894-1942, a history of his home state, was accepted for publication by the University of Iowa Press only in his final months and was issued in winter 196. He also guided his last five graduate students through the completion of their dissertations in the spring and summer of 1995. In the fall, though very ill with terminal liver cancer, he was able to make one final trip - a Mississippi River steamboat excursion, accompanied solely by his 85-year-old mother, Wanda A. Schwandke Burns. As he had wished, Brad died peacefully at home—on December 19, 1995. He is survived by his mother, his sister Karen Burns Kenny, and his longtime friend and companion, David Aguayo.
Always exuberant but seldom sentimental, Brad was a constant friend and colleague. He enriched the lives of those around him, yet he remained a private person. He was tolerant of the conflicting opinions of others though rarely swayed by them. He was a romantic, even to the point of being quixotic, but at the same time he remained coolheaded with a firm sense of immediate reality. A dreamer, he was very much his own man, cerebral and reserved, who undoubtedly nurtured other enthusiasms that were his alone. We shall miss him.
Ludwig Lauerhass, Jr.