Donors honor memory of Penn State Professor Anatole Katok through new endowments

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Following the recent death of Anatole Katok, the former Raymond N. Shibley Professor of Mathematics in the Eberly College of Science and director of the Center for Dynamical Systems and Geometry at Penn State, three donors have stepped forward to make gifts in Katok’s memory totaling $2.7 million.

A lead gift from Katok’s former student and colleague, Michael Brin, will endow the Anatole Katok Chair in Mathematics. Additional contributions from Brin and two of Katok’s other former students, Sergey Ferleger and Alexey Kononenko, will provide permanent program support for the Center for Dynamical Systems and Geometry.

“In losing Anatole, we have lost a brilliant colleague and a leader in the field of dynamical systems,” said Douglas Cavener, dean of the Eberly College of Science. “We will remember Anatole for the care he took in mentoring the next generation of mathematicians, which began when he was a college freshman directing a mathematics study group for talented young students and which continued throughout his life. The endowment from Michael, Serge and Alexey will honor Anatole’s memory and extend his legacy in perpetuity.”

Brin has made an outright gift of $2 million to create the Anatole Katok Chair in Mathematics in the Eberly College of Science and to support outstanding faculty members who, as Katok was throughout his career, are leaders in the study of dynamical systems.

Brin, Ferleger and Kononenko have together made additional gifts totaling $700,000 to create a program fund within the Center for Dynamical Systems and Geometry, to be used for a range of center programming at the direction of the center director. In recognition of these donors’ generosity and Katok’s leadership at Penn State, the University has renamed the Center for Dynamical Systems and Geometry the “Anatole Katok Center for Dynamical Systems and Geometry.”

The Eberly College of Science will undertake a nationwide search for a distinguished leader in dynamical systems to fill the Anatole Katok Chair in Mathematics and lead the newly renamed center.

“Anatole was an extraordinary academic and contributed great value to his profession,” said Brin. “Through these gifts, Alexey, Serge and I hope to honor his outstanding legacy by supporting faculty members who will continue the research and teaching to which he devoted his life.”

Katok died Monday, April 30, at age 73. He grew up in Moscow during the Soviet era, earning master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from Moscow State University. In 1965, he married Svetlana Rosenfeld, and in 1978, the Katoks immigrated to the United States with their two children, Elena and Boris. During his lifetime, Katok held professorships at the University of Maryland and the California Institute of Technology, in addition to Penn State. He was the dissertation adviser to more than 40 doctoral students over the course of his lifetime.

Brin is professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Maryland and an expert in the fields of dynamical systems and Riemannian geometry. He is the author of more than 30 papers, three of which appeared in the Annals of Mathematics, and he has lectured at conferences and universities around the world. In 2008, he established the Michael Brin Prize in Dynamical Systems, an international prize for outstanding work in the theory of dynamical systems and related areas. Born in Moscow, Russia, Brin immigrated to the United States in pursuit of academic freedom, a passion he shared with Katok.

Kononenko and Ferleger received doctoral degrees in mathematics from Penn State in 1996 and 1998, respectively.

“These meaningful gifts to honor the late Dr. Anatole Katok will propel cutting-edge mathematics research for generations to come,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “This is a fitting way, indeed, to honor a professor and mentor who was profoundly respected by so many — not only at Penn State, but throughout the mathematics world.”

These gifts from Brin, Ferleger and Kononenko will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence." The campaign seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

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Last Updated June 15, 2018