Melinda Harder

Offered by Bonnie Shulman, Associate Professor of Economics, on May 5, 2008

Melinda Harder, statistician extraordinaire, may have been a part-time employee, but she was a full-time colleague and friend. Although not required to, she participated in a full-time load of advising theses, sitting on thesis panels, attending department meetings and retreats, and serving on search committees.

Melinda Harder, photographed by Phyllis Graber Jensen.

She created courses in our department that set new directions, and served large populations of students we had not been reaching. Math 101, Working with Data, has grown from an initial class of less than 20, to two to three sections every year with long waiting lists. This was the beginning of the math department’s concern with integrating quantitative literacy courses for all into their curriculum. Math 155, Mathematical Models in Biology, was in the vanguard of the national movement to teach mathematical biology to undergraduates.

Her research and scholarship in applied statistics is by its very nature interdisciplinary. She is always willing to learn a new area in order to answer questions from colleagues whose research has a statistical component. Her statistical expertise has been invaluable to faculty and students in other departments and programs, including Economics, Geology, Psychology and Biology. One measure of how lucky we were to have her, and how invaluable her contributions were, is how difficult we are finding it to replace her!

Melinda is a loyal friend, kind and thoughtful, always willing to help and listen. She is full of energy and loves the outdoors. She is passionate about skiing, tennis, running and hiking. She is an avid reader. I know she hopes to have more time to enjoy these pursuits.

We will miss her keen intellect and sharp mind. During meetings, and in question and answer sessions after a colloquium, Melinda sits quietly for a while, taking in the discussion. Then she asks a question or makes a comment that is incisive and straight to the point, with a fresh perspective that no one else was able to articulate. We will miss her contributions to the climate of collegiality in the department — her skill in building and maintaining relationships, welcoming new people and supporting us all. However, we are hopeful that we will still occasionally see her bright face popping around the corner of the office door, asking “Lunch?” — that she will use some of her newly liberated time to stay in touch. We wish her all the best.