Professor Emeritus William Maxwell Joins People to People Delegation to Operations Research Professionals in South Africa
In October 2007, a delegation of Operations Research and Management Science professionals toured South Africa under the auspices of the People to People Ambassador Programs established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Emeritus ORIE Professor William L. Maxwell and his wife Judith were members of the delegation.
Led by Professor Michael H. Rothkopf of Pennsylvania State University, the group met with the current and past presidents of the Operations Research Society of South Africa; faculty of the Universities of Witwatersrand, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, South Africa, and Cape Town; and faculty of the Institut for Maritime Technology and of the LEAP Science and Math School that has been established to serve residents of the Townships. Maxwell says that the children at the LEAP school were impressive. "This school is educating the future leaders of South Africa. I could see in their eyes that these children, who go back each weekend to poverty in the Townships, are learning that they will stand out among their peers. They are told that they should be both proud and humble to do so."
|The People to People Delegation in South Africa|
Maxwell, who is the Andrew P. Shultz Jr. Professor Emeritus of Industrial Engineering, said that he was impressed at the diversity of the US delegation, which was made up of practioners as well as faculty from business schools, agricultural schools, West Point and OR departments. In a "Journal of Professional Proceedings" about the trip, tour leader Rothkopf notes that OR work in South Africa focusses on applications, in areas such as port optimization, coal value chain optimization (at SASOL, a private company that produces gas and oil using coal as a fuel source), and airline scheduling.
At the University of Pretoria, the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering is "training students early on to identify previously unstructered problems out in the field for which a model formulation can be made." Students have learned that clients rarely have taken the first step in problem identification, so this experience has been an effective way to enhance the interface between theory and practice. Some of the applications relate to developing the 'second economy' of South Africa, which provides simple retail supply services in the large informal settlements emerging around the large cities. Maxwell noted that the University of South Africa is a dedicated distance learning institution with over 250,000 students. "At the University of Stellenbosch," he commented, "students are encouraged to join the OR society and professors take students to society meetings".
Maxwell joined the Cornell faculty in 1960, with a BME and a Ph.D. degree from ORIE. With Richard W. Conway and Lewis W. Miller, he pioneered the development of scheduling theory. He also developed some of the first computerized industrial simulations. He has been an active consultant with several companies, including General Motors, SI Handling Systems, and Supply Chain Consultants. He has been a recipient of the annual Excellence in Engineering Teaching Award sponsored by the Cornell Society of Engineers and Tau Beta Pi, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
|Lion in Kruger National Park
According to Rothkopf's trip journal, "in the optional extension of the trip [to Kruger National Park] some of us met with lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippopotami, cheetahs, zebras, wild dogs, hyenas, warthogs, monkeys, baboons, and lots of different kinds of antelope. None of them expressed any interest in operations research or management science, but on the other hand none of them said that they thought it was a bad idea."
Sadly, Professor Michael H. Rothkopf died February 18, 2008, at Pennsylvania State University, where he had recently moved from Rutgers. Maxwell said that he was "impressed by Mike's dedication to quality applications of OR and by the important work he did for publications of INFORMS," the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. "He was an impressive delegation leader," said Tim Dunne, Department Head of Statistical Sciences at the University of Capetown.
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