Kesar Singh, a beloved colleague, friend, teacher and extraordinary researcher, left us forever, and far too soon, on Wednesday May 16, 2012.
Kesar had had a massive heart attack the night before and was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, New Brunswick, New Jersey, where heart surgery was unable to save him. His wife Swati and some of his colleagues who were in the hospital got a chance to see him before he passed away peacefully.
Kesar was born on June 20, 1955 into a farming family just outside of Varanasi, India. He got his BSc degree in 1973 from Allahabad University and PhD in 1979 from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata, with Jogesh Babu as his advisor. Kesar was considered exceptionally brilliant by his teachers and fellow students at ISI. He was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1979 to join the Stanford Statistics Department as a postdoc. It was around that time that Brad Efron from Stanford introduced the bootstrap method. Many leading statisticians were racing to provide a theoretical justification for bootstrap. Kesar, as a fresh PhD, was the first to show that the bootstrap approximation is superior to that derived from the Central Limit Theorem for the distribution of the sample mean of i.i.d random variables from a non-lattice distribution. This landmark result and his subsequent seminal work in many statistics areas, including data depth and confidence distributions, made Kesar Singh a household name in bootstrap circles as well as in several other statistics communities. When Brad Efron heard of Kesar’s passing, he commented, “Among other things, Kesar is a key bootstrap guy.”
Kesar joined the Rutgers Statistics Department in 1980 and was promoted to Professor in 1988. He was a brilliant scholar and a beloved teacher. He published almost 100 papers and supervised ten PhD students. He was recognized as a leading statistician worldwide. He was a Fellow of the IMS, and an Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute.
Kesar was an extremely kind and gentle person. He was universally liked and appreciated by students, friends, colleagues, fellow statisticians, as well as neighbors. His students responded very positively to his warmth, kindness and sense of humor. It was always rewarding to work with Kesar. His knowledge of statistics was deep and extensive. His willingness to share his gifts was always present.
Kesar was devoted to his beloved wife Swati, whom he met when they were both students at ISI. He was an avid gardener and he was proud of the beautiful flowers and vegetables that he grew each year. He and Swati also lavished attention and affection on their dogs.
At his funeral service, many people testified to Kesar’s kind, gentle and friendly nature. A neighbor who only knew of him as “Mr. Singh” and was unaware of his connection to Rutgers or his academic eminence, commented that he had always greeted her and her sons with warmth and kindness when they passed by his house and admired the beautiful enormous pumpkin that he grew each year.
The Department of Statistics at Rutgers and the statistics community have lost an outstanding scholar, teacher, and friend. He will be greatly missed for his enormous intellect, as well as his constant generosity, gentleness, and kindness.
Jogesh Babu, Penn State University
Regina Liu, Rutgers University
William Strawderman, Rutgers University
Minge Xie, Rutgers University