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Professor emeritus Corduneanu remembered for kindness, contributions to mathematics

Dr. Constantin Corduneanu
Dr. Constantin Corduneanu

Constantin Corduneanu, an esteemed mathematician whose career spanned seven decades and two continents, was remembered by friends as a kind, caring gentleman who was supportive of his students and colleagues.

Dr. Corduneanu, who spent the final 17 years of his career at The University of Texas at Arlington and for the past 22 years was professor emeritus in mathematics, died December 26 in Arlington following a long illness. He was 90. A memorial service was held in his honor at UTA on January 25, attended by more than 40 of his colleagues from the College of Science.

A funeral service by Romanian community of Dallas-Fort Worth was held on January 5 at St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Colleyville. Dr. Corduneanu will be interred in his native Romania.

He came to UTA following more than two decades as a professor at the University of Iasi in Romania, during which he became a recognized authority in Volterra operators and integral equations. He emigrated to the United States in 1978, seeking the freedom and professional opportunities which were denied under Romania’s communist government.

Colleagues recalled his benevolence, thoughtfulness, his genial nature and easygoing demeanor, and his generosity with his time and knowledge while mentoring students and peers alike.

“Dr. Corduneanu was very kind and caring, and he was an excellent mathematician,” said Jianzhong Su, professor and chair of the UTA Department of Mathematics. “He loved to tell stories and could sometimes be quite outspoken in his opinions, especially in the early days about the communist regime in his home country. He was very generous with his support and encouragement for his students. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues and by the thousands of students he taught.”

His research interests included global theory of integral equations; differential systems; integral or general Volterra operators (causal); admissibility theory and systems applications differential; system stability theory; and theory of oscillating movements and waves.

Dr. Corduneanu was born in the small town of Potângeni, a few miles northwest of Iasi, Romania, on July 26, 1928, to the late Costache and Aglaia Corduneanu. He grew up on the family farm; his parents and many of his extended family were teachers. At age 12, he moved to Iasi for his secondary education. He was enrolled at the Military High School in Iasi and like other boys his age, he underwent military training in addition to his academic classes, in preparation to become a soldier in World War II. Fortunately, the war ended in 1945, when he turned 17.

He showed great aptitude for mathematics from an early age and in his final two years of secondary school (1946-47), he participated in the Romanian Mathematical Olympiad and won prizes both years, including first prize in 1947. This success helped convince him to become a mathematician.

He entered the University of Iasi as a student in the Faculty of Science, Division of Mathematics in the fall of 1947. That same year, communists seized control of the Romanian government, a grip they maintained until 1989. Dr. Corduneanu’s father was jailed for almost a year and their family farm was confiscated. He received his master’s degree equivalent in mathematics in 1951 and two years later entered the University of Iasi’s Ph.D. program in mathematics. Under his faculty advisor, Ilie Popa, he completed his dissertation project, titled “Global problems for the first and second order differential equations,” and earned his Ph.D. in 1956.

Dr. Corduneanu then joined the University of Iasi math faculty as an assistant professor. While rising to full professor, he also served as dean of mathematics (1968-72) and vice-rector for research and graduate studies (1972-75). He also served at Iasi Polytechnic Institute and for three years at the Institute of Pedagogy, (known today as the University of Suceava), where he was rector from 1966-67.

In 1977, after Romania’s oppressive communist government initiated severe cutbacks in the country’s math research program, Dr. Corduneanu decided to expatriate. He spent a year teaching at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (UNESCO) in Trieste, Italy, and then moved to the United States, where he was a visiting professor at the University of Rhode Island (spring 1978) and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (1978-79). He then applied for and was appointed to a newly created position in mathematics at UTA, and he began his UTA tenure in fall 1979.

At UTA, Dr. Corduneanu made major contributions to the rise of the department’s doctoral program, which had been created in 1974. By 1987, the American Mathematical Society ranked UTA’s Department of Mathematics 89th out of 620 mathematics doctoral-granting institutions in the United States.

In 1979, he founded a magazine, called Libertas Mathematica, a new journal where mathematicians of Romanian origin were invited to publish research papers, historical notes, and reviews of new publications. The journal was a reaction against the communist regime in Romania that limited freedom of speech. The first issue was published January 1, 1981, and Dr. Corduneanu served as editor until 2012. The journal helped mathematicians of the Romanian diaspora to better integrate into the mathematical communities in the United States and Western Europe.

Following 47 years in academia in Romania and the United States, Dr. Corduneanu retired from full-time teaching in 1996 and was named professor emeritus at UTA. There was no slowdown in his research and other scholarly activities, as he continued to write and to present his research at conferences in the United States and around the world.

In 1974, he was named a corresponding member of the Romanian Academy, which was founded in 1866 and is the highest science and culture force in Romania. His membership was withdrawn when he left Romania in 1978, but he was reinstated in 1990, following the collapse of the communist regime of President Nicolae Ceaușescu. In 2015, he was elected a full member of the Academy.

He was a longtime member of the American Romanian Academy of Arts and Sciences (ARA), an internationally recognized academic research and educational institution, founded in California in 1975 by a group of American-Romanians. Its main goal is to foster cultural exchanges between the American and Romanian cultures. Dr. Corduneanu served on the ARA steering committee from 1982-95 and as president from 1995-98.

He published more than 200 research papers, participated in more than 100 international conferences, and made more than 60 invited talks at universities and institutes around the world. He also published six books, including Principles of Differential and Integral Equations (1971), Integral Equations and Stability of Feedback Systems (1973), Integral Equations and Applications (1991), and Almost Periodic Oscillations and Waves (2009). He served in various capacities on 10 mathematical journals.

In May 1990, Dr. Corduneanu served as co-organizer of the Integral Methods in Science & Engineering conference at UTA. In 1996 he was lead organizer of the Volterra Centennial Conference on Integral Equations and Applications at UTA, which was attended by about 100 mathematicians and engineers from 15 countries. In August 2018, Ural State University in Ekaterinburg, Russia, held a conference in honor of his 90th birthday.

He was a member of the American Mathematical Society; the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics; the Mathematical Association of America; and the Federation of Nonlinear Analysts.

Among the awards he received are the V. Pogor Prize of the Municipality of Iasi (2002); the Medal of Merit in Mathematics from the Union of Czech Mathematicians (2001); the UTA Distinguished Record of Research Award (1991); the Gheorghe Lazăr Prize of the Romanian Academy (1965); and the Romanian Ministry of Education Prize (1963). He received honorary doctorate degrees from Ovidius University in Constantza, Romania (1994); University of Iasi, Romania (1994); Transylvania University in Brasov, Romania (1999); Stefan cel Mare University in Suceava, Romania (2003); and Ural State University (2010).

Dr. Corduneanu was preceded in death by his wife, Alice, in 2005.