Wilfred Kaplan, professor emeritus of mathematics, died Dec. 26, 2007, after a short illness. He was 92.
Kaplan was born Nov. 28, 1915, in Boston, Mass., the son of Jacob and Anne (Levenson) Kaplan. After graduation from Boston Latin School, he entered Harvard University, where he completed his A.B. degree in mathematics summa cum laude. With a traveling fellowship he then spent the year 1936-37 in Europe, where his fluency in German and French helped him meet and confer with many leading mathematicians.
While attending lectures at ETH Zürich he met another mathematics student, Ida "Heidi" Roettinger, who would become his wife of 66 years. In addition to mathematics, they shared a passionate interest in music and literature. They were married in 1938 and lived for a year in Houston while Kaplan taught at Rice Institute. He earned a doctorate from Harvard in 1939, as a student of Hassler Whitney. He then taught for a year at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., before joining the faculty at U-M in 1940, where he served until his retirement in 1986.
Kaplan authored several text books, published about 30 research papers on topological behavior of solutions of differential equations, complex function theory and applied mathematics, and he supervised eight doctoral students. His text "Advanced Calculus," first published in 1952, has been translated into many languages and continues to be used in many universities worldwide.
"First and foremost, Wilfred Kaplan was a teacher," says colleague Don Lewis, professor emeritus of mathematics. "He enjoyed conveying the beauty and usefulness of mathematics, and his students responded enthusiastically. He was a superb expositor, and his ability to elegantly convey mathematical ideas explains the enormous impact of his textbooks. When we were writing our joint texts, he never came to a meeting without a new idea to be incorporated."
Throughout most of his professional career, Kaplan was active in the affairs of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a national organization dedicated to defending faculty rights, especially academic freedom and tenure. He served as president of the U-M chapter, president of the Michigan Conference and member of the national AAUP Council. He was helpful in bringing collective bargaining to several universities in Michigan, with the AAUP as agent.
"Wilfred's AAUP contributions were solid, significant, and sometimes innovative," says colleague Ralph Loomis, professor emeritus of English. "His devotion to University governance was unstinting and unflagging."
He played an important role in faculty governance, serving as vice-chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on Academic Affairs (SACUA) and as chair of an AAUP committee for annual review of the University budget. In 1986 he was one of the inaugural recipients of the SACUA Distinguished Faculty Governance Award. In 1990 he helped establish the Academic Freedom Lecture Fund (AFLF), which sponsors an annual lecture in honor of three professors fired or suspended for political reasons during the McCarthy era, and he remained on the AFLF Board of Directors until his death.
Kaplan and his wife enjoyed playing music together and in various chamber groups. He also promoted the arts, especially music and drama, in the Ann Arbor area. He served as president of the Dramatic Arts Center, president of Ars Musica and president of the Washtenaw Council for the Arts.
In recent years Kaplan served as president of the U-M Retirees' Association. Following his wife's death in 2005, Kaplan worked to edit and translate their collection of correspondence with each other and with family and friends. Two volumes of these edited letters have been printed, and another is forthcoming.
Kaplan is survived by his brother Robert of New York, his sister Esther Kaplan Braun of Boston, children Roland of San Jose and Muriel Kaplan Zwiebel of Minneapolis, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews
— Submitted by Peter Duren, professor of mathematics