Remembering Richard Guy

1916-2020

Emeritus professor and mathematician Dr. Richard Guy passed away on March 9, 2020. He was a teacher, colleague, philanthropist, mountaineer, and treasured friend who will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

Passionate about life and learning, Richard held many roles and was a pillar of the community since he arrived in Calgary in 1965 alongside his beloved late wife, Louise. He and Louise supported the University of Calgary since its beginnings as a new university in 1966. They dedicated themselves to sharing their zest for life and Richard’s love of mathematics with students, colleagues, and the community.

As a mathematician, Richard was a world-renowned combinatorist and graph theorist who made profound and important contributions to pure and applied math, and to the early years of computer science. He published over 300 scholarly articles, with one notably holding a record for the greatest age gap between co-authors. Though he was undoubtedly preeminent in his field, he strove to make mathematics accessible to all. Through his own efforts and some personal funds, he and Louise worked with the Strens family and the Government of Alberta to bring the Eugène Strens Recreational Mathematics Collection to the University of Calgary library. Another of the couple’s lasting contributions to the University of Calgary is the popular Richard and Louise Guy lecture series, which was a 90th birthday present from Louise to Richard in recognition of his love of mathematics.

Richard marked his 103rd birthday on Sept. 30, 2019. Although he retired in 1982, Richard insisted, “I didn’t retire. They just stopped paying me.” Even as his age entered triple digits, Richard often spent five days a week at his office in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

The University of Calgary celebrated his 100th birthday and its 50th anniversary milestone year in 2016. We could not be more proud that the inspirational, incomparable Richard Guy chose to share part of his life with us.

Your memories of Richard

In 2013, when I was studying at the UofC, the Number Theory group had regular meetings called number noshes. This was the place where we would meet, have our lunch, and chat about our work. This is where I met Prof. Richard Guy. During one of the noshes, he mentioned that he wanted to go to the gardeners' meeting somewhere in Atlanta, but was having trouble purchasing tickets online. So I agreed to help, knowing nothing about Prof. Guy's age. I went to his office and, first of all, noticed that he was using the operating system called Fedora. Unix users would agree that the choice is far from being obvious. Next, I noticed that he was using some browser I never heard about, and whose name I cannot even remember now. This turned out to be the problem: because the browser was non-conventional, switching to Firefox resolved the issue and Expedia worked just fine. So I opened it for him, but Prof. Guy asked me to stay and fill in the slots with details. So I did. I filled in the city of departure (Calgary) and the city of arrival (Atlanta), indicated that this was a return flight, and specified the date Prof. Guy told me. Then comes the time to fill in the details about the traveler, and so I asked him about the date of birth. And then entered: September 30th, 1916.

Anton Mosunov, March 26, 2020

Birthday wishes for Richard Guy's 100th birthday

Birthday greeting from our previous chancellor. View more birthday wishes here.