Dr. Elliot A. Tanis, who retired from the Hope mathematics faculty in 2000 after teaching at the college for 35 years, died on Thursday, July 22, 2021. He was 87.
A specialist in statistics, he began teaching mathematics at Hope in 1965. During his tenure, he was department chairperson from 1971 to 1982, and from 1995 to 1997; a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees from 1975 to 1977; and interim dean for the natural sciences in 1993. Five times he enjoyed taking Hope College students to Japan for May Term at Meiji Gakuin University. In 1989, the college’s graduating senior class presented him the 25th annual Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award.
He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1934. He also lived in Waupun, Wisconsin; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Pella, Iowa. After graduating from Pella High School, he attended Central College in Pella and graduated in 1956 with a major in mathematics.
He began graduate studies in mathematics at the University of Iowa but was drafted during his first semester and spent the following two years in the U.S. Army. In January 1959, he returned to the University of Iowa, where he studied probability and statistics under Robert V. Hogg. After completing his Ph.D. in January 1963, he taught at the University of Iowa and at the University of Nebraska prior to coming to Hope.
He developed many ways to use technology in his teaching and scholarly activities, including applications in mathematics, art (especially in replicating M.C. Escher’s tessellations) and statistics. He gave talks in England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Canada and the United States.
He and Hogg co-authored the textbook “Probability and Statistical Inference,” which was initially published in 1977 and across the decades which followed was released in several new editions, including in Chinese. His other books included “Probability and Statistics: Explorations with MAPLE,” co-authored with Dr. Zaven Karian of the Denison University faculty, and he had also written numerous articles concerning probability and statistics.
He served the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America as chairperson (1976-77) and section governor (1989-92). The section awarded him a teaching award in 1992 and a distinguished service award in 1996.
He married Elaine Buteyn, who survives him, in 1959. Survivors also include their three children, Philip Tanis ’87 and Gretchen Schoon Tanis ’99, Joel Schoon-Tanis ’89 and Kathryn Schoon Tanis ’95, and Ellen Tanis ’90 Awad and Habeeb Awad; and grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced as available.