Esteemed professor of mathematics dies at age 60

Tracy Ellingson

Mathematics professor Eugene Fabes’ colleagues remember their peer as a caring man with a talent for bringing fun to his teaching and an international flavor to the University’s School of Mathematics.
Fabes, a professor at the University since 1967 and former head of the mathematics department, died of a heart attack May 18 while walking to the school’s Geometry Center.
“Mathematics is usually thought of as difficult and something you have to do with a great deal of intensity,” said John Baxter, associate head of the School of Mathematics. “(Fabes) brought zest and fun to teaching, and his students picked that up.”
Fabes, 60, studied at Harvard University and received his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1965. He wrote more than 60 papers and served as the editor of several scholarly journals.
Fabes’ reputation often drew people from around the world to study math at the University, his colleagues said. Fabes, who spoke fluent Spanish and Italian, conducted some of his research in Europe and Latin America.
During his travels, he made contact with students and other researchers who would later study at the University.
“He was warm and caring. I think that’s what enabled him to make contact with so many people,” Baxter said. “It’s his personal qualities, as well as intellectual that makes that possible.”
Mathematics professor Walter Littman said Fabes’ friendly demeanor was also evident in his dealings with University colleagues.
“I would meet with Gene half a dozen times in the hall each day, and every time I met him he would give me a big hello as if he hadn’t seen me for years,” Littman said.
At the time of his death, Fabes was teaching 20 graduate students. One former student, Russell Brown, said he remembers Fabes fondly.
“(Fabes) afforded us a lot of independence and always encouraged us,” said Brown, who is currently a visiting professor at the University from the University of Kentucky. “Part of the reason I came back is because I had good memories of him and the department.”