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James O. and Ann L. Berger make major capital gift to the Department of Statistics

 Dr. Berger and his wife Ann
(James O. Berger and his wife Ann L. Berger)
With a capital gift to the Department of Statistics, the Bergers are confident that the department will have tremendous impact for years to come.

Dr. Jim Berger entered a wide-open field when he became a Statistics student at Cornell University 45 years ago. New theories and practices were being implemented, and these machines called computers were starting to rise.

Today, that same field has become one of the most dynamic growth areas in science and society, as technology and large data sets are begging for statisticians to make sense of tremendous amounts of information in all-important fields like healthcare, government, technology, and virtually every area of science. The demand is high for trained, skilled statisticians, which is why Berger is giving back to the Purdue Statistics program that helped establish him as an international name in statistics.

A Minneapolis native, Berger excelled at Cornell, earning his undergraduate and PhD degrees in less than six years. Soon after, Berger applied his skills to academia and arrived at Purdue as a young faculty member in the Department of Statistics, then a newer program that had recently separated itself from Mathematics. At the time, having an independent statistics department, especially the size of Purdue's, was rare.

It was at Purdue that Berger was able to grow as a statistician, educator, mentor, author and researcher.

"The statistics department was wonderful and the university was very supportive of statistics, which made the environment exceptional for me," Berger said.

During Berger's Purdue tenure from 1974 to 1997, he collaborated with a who's who from Purdue Statistics' storied history: Leon Gleser, Herman Rubin, Mary Ellen Bock, Tom Sellke, Anirban DasGupta, Jayanta Ghosh and Shanti Gupta, the Godfather of the program that served as department head for almost 30 years.

Berger realized the tremendous opportunity in Statistics. He helped organize 28 conferences, including five Purdue Symposia on Statistical Decision Theory and Related Topics. While at Purdue, Berger was President of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and Chairman of the American Statistical Association’s Section on Bayesian Statistical Science. In 1985, he won the COPSS award, the highest honor in statistics. In 1986, Berger was named the Richard M. Brumfield Distinguished Professor of Statistics.

Berger's success and reputation during his 23 years at Purdue are still appreciated. In 1997, Berger moved to Duke University, where he is the Arts and Sciences Professor of Statistics, in part to take advantage of opportunities such as becoming the founding director of the National Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute, from 2002- 2010. In 2003, Berger was inducted into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

While he may now be a Blue Devil, Berger will always bleed black and gold (and says he is torn when Duke faces Purdue in basketball). Jim and his wife, Ann Berger, who graduated from Purdue with a Master's degree in Education, have acknowledged their tremendous debt to Purdue and recognize the enormous future for statistics at Purdue. With a capital gift to the Department of Statistics, Berger is confident that the department will have remarkable impact for years to come. The Bergers and the Purdue statisticians will prepare tomorrow's statisticians for a burgeoning, crucial field.

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