I got in touch with a colleague from my days at Bowling Green State University. That was in the 1980s and my life had changed substantially since those days. While I have many professional biographies (such as this one from 2016), none of them covered the more personal aspects of my life. So here’s a brief biography for anyone who is interested in more than just where I worked.
I don’t want to bore you with a lot of details, so I’ll try to be brief. It’s still way too long.
I was born in Baltimore in 1956. Most of my immediate family is gone. My father died in 1996, my mother in 2001. My sister died in 2005 and my oldest brother died in 2015. I still have one brother alive (Bernie) and a niece (Joyce), but lots of in-laws (more about that later). Bernie is currently working at the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins and in my infrequent trips back to Baltimore, I always asking him about the latest trends in computing in the Astronomical community.
Even though my close family has grown smaller, I still have several surviving aunts and uncles (they are all in the 80s) and more cousins than you can shake a stick at. There’s a Simon family picnic every summer and I’ve tried to get to it when I can. Our family has a strong German heritage and the highlight of every picnic is the singing of “Schnitzelbank”.
I attended Saint Matthew’s, a Catholic grade school, and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a public high school. I was interested in chess and in what passed for computers in the 1970s. I also competed in “It’s Academic” a quiz show team competition among the local high schools. I was also vice-president of my senior class. I also volunteered most Saturday mornings at a recycling center run by the Parkville Jaycees. I served as a page for the Maryland House of Representatives for a couple of weeks and saw an actual filibuster one night, which was simultaneously the most fascinating and the most boring thing I had ever seen.
I loved mathematics and decided in high school to become an actuary, because that was the only career I knew about that paid you for your mathematical skills. I wrote to several Universities that had programs in Actuarial Science and got a very nice personalized letter from Bob Hogg, the chair of the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Iowa. So at the age of 18 and having never traveled west of the Appalachian mountains, I set off for Iowa City. I loved the place so much that I stayed for a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degree, though I did switch from Actuarial Science to Applied Statistics.
In college, I continued my love of chess and participated in many chess tournaments in the area. My highest rating was 1802, but I was really closer to a 1400 level player. I also played card games obsessively: hearts at first and then bridge. I dated a piano major and learned how to play the piano (poorly). I also learned the recorder and played in an informal recorder group that played mostly Renaissance tunes. I also joined the Folk Dance club and learned a wide range of mostly eastern European dances. Like piano, I was never very good a folk dancing, but it was still a lot of fun.
I also learned how to ride a bike in college and loved taking long trips through the country roads surrounding Iowa City. My other big time sink in college was Dungeons and Dragons.
I’m a quiet person and did not have a very large circle of friends in college, but I did develop a close bond with the Mooses (Carla, Julie, Phil, and Sheila). Don’t ask why we were called the Mooses. I also developed a good friendship with a fellow PhD student, Harald. We shared the same office for all the time I was at Iowa and were in almost all of the same classes.
In graduate school, I met Deanna Wild, a fellow Statistics student, and we hit it off right away. We would pass notes back and forth during our Regression Analysis and Design of Experiments classes. Deanna left Iowa after getting her Masters degree in Statistics but came back after a year to start an MBA program. We married shortly before my final year at Iowa.
Deanna was a cat lover and we soon had three cat children. Deanna’s father was a Mathematics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and also a very good chess player, so we got along quite well. Deanna’s father died in 1991 and we established a small scholarship fund in his honor that is still granting scholarships today. Deanna’s mother also died (in 1998) but her three siblings (Warren, Jerry, and Pat) and their spouses are still around. I also have two nieces and two nephews from her side of the family.
Also in graduate school, I was fortunate to be appointed the student director of the Statistical Consulting Center under the faculty supervision of George Woodworth. I was a lousy statistical consultant back then, but I learned quickly and the experiences there served me well throughout the rest of my career.
My dissertation was on a variation of robust regression models that I gave the fanciful label “connect the dots” regression. My dissertation adviser was Russ Lenth.
In 1982, I got my first time job, an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Applied Statistics and Operations Research at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Our Department is located in the College of Business and I learned a lot from watching my colleagues in Accounting, Economics, Finance, Management, and Marketing Research. Deanna finished her MBA degree at the time and was an Instructor in the same department (a non-tenure track position). I also helped start an informal PC Users group at BGSU and served as faculty adviser to the chess club.
My faculty appointment was a “publish or perish” position and I perished in 1987. Looking back, I realized that I was probably a bit too hot headed, and I had a bad attitude that sometimes interfered with my teaching skills.
It was actually fortunate that I didn’t get tenure, because I quickly found a position that was much better suited to my temperament. I was offered a position in Cincinnati as a consulting statistician in the Department of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducts research to support the regulatory efforts of our sister agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The statisticians at NIOSH were spread across multiple divisions, so I started the Statistical Discussion Group, an informal meeting of the Cincinnati NIOSH statisticians that met monthly. I also was involved with the effort to develop a Total Quality Management program at NIOSH. I worked with a broad range of researchers, but spent quite a bit of time working on problems in male reproductive toxicology and still have some contact with prominent researchers in this area today.
Deanna had a contract position at the Water Quality Division at the Environmental Protection Agency and later with the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies at NIOSH. She became the supervisor of a small group of statisticians in her division and I was the supervisor of a small group of statisticians and programmers in my division. One of the programmers that I supervised taught me how to create a website using basic html commands. This would turn out to be a big thing later in my career. Another one of my employees decided to start a Toastmasters club at NIOSH, and in an effort to be supportive of him, I decided to try it. I was hooked. Toastmasters gives you a chance to practice your speaking skills and I got good enough to compete in some of the regional speaking competitions.
Things started turning a bit sour for both our jobs in 1996 (though I still look back on my time in Cincinnati with great fondness). So we started looking around and I found a nice consulting job at Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH) in Kansas City. Deanna started working at Sprint, and later moved to a teaching position at Johnson County Community College.
I started a website at CMH in December 1997 and wrote a couple of pages every week, mostly on Statistics, but also a bit on research ethics and evidence based medicine. Over time, this website grew into thousands of pages and I was able to publish a book based on material that was on these web pages. The site currently resides at www.pmean.com, but I also have a blog now, blog.pmean.com.
Deanna died very unexpectedly in 1999 from a pulmonary embolism. There was no family in the area (my family stayed in Baltimore and my in-laws were in Colorado, western Kansas, and Wisconsin). I was still new enough to the area that I did not have a strong network of friends and acquaintances. So the feeling of isolation was quite profound. For the sake of my sanity, I joined the Back Porch Cloggers, a group of dancers performing Appalachian clogging, the Bluejacket Toastmasters club, and the Movie Group. I later took over running the movie group, a small group of friends that meet every second Friday of the month to see a new movie. I lost contact with the Bluejacket Toastmasters, but still do a bit of clogging with the Back Porch Cloggers from time to time.
One of the doctors that I worked with invited me to accompany her and most of the other doctors in the Emergency Department at CMH on a trip to Rome to celebrate her 50th birthday. I had never been to Rome, but it was just the thing I needed. I spent hours and hours practicing with Pimsleur recordings of Italian and got to the point where I was able to carry on a few passable conversations when I was in Italy. I had never been to euro
One of the other doctors at CMH set me up on a blind date in 2000 with another doctor at CMH, a Cardiologist named Catherine Ong. We hit it off very well right from the start, but there was one catch. She was a dog person, and I still had a cat. Her dog, Shauna, was a Labrador/Corgi mix with the sleek brown fur of a lab and the short stumpy legs of a Corgi. I think that she looked more like a platypus than a dog. The cat, Newton, was a black cat who never got along well with the other cats in the family and when the others died from old age, I felt like Newton would be happier as an only cat.
We got married in 2002, though, and created what I called our blended family. Cats and dogs do get along, though it took six long months. Newton, it turns out, liked Shauna far more than any of the cats she used to live with.
I also got a new set of in-laws, and that included three new nieces and three new nephews. These in-laws are all in the Kansas City area, so I get to see them often. My New Years resolution is to try to travel more often to see the Simon family members in Baltimore and visit the Deanna Wild in laws more often as well.
We decided in 2004 to adopt a child from Russia, who we named Nicholas. Nicholas was 26 months old when we brought him back from Russia. Nick makes friends very easily and is far more of an extrovert than either of his parents. He is also high energy and has kept me quite active. He loves remote control cars and has several high end models that can get up to 60 miles per hour on a straight stretch. He’s currently in his first year of high school.
I decided in 2011 to take up running, partly as a way to build up endurance for the many games of tag, kickball, soccer, etc. that Nicholas wanted to play. I tracked all my runs on a GPS app on my smart phone and started running in organized 5 kilometer and 4 mile races. I’ve also run in an occasional 8 or 10 kilometer race, but am not anywhere close to the longer distances like the half marathon. I set a pretty slow pace on my runs. My best 5K time is 34 minutes, but these days, my 5K times are closer to 40 minutes. Even though I am one of the last runners to finish these races, I do take pride in being able to run for 40 minutes without stopping and resting.
I want to add a few more details, but that’s the big picture.