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Herbert Walum ’58

A picture of Herbert Walum

Herbert Walum ’58, December 7, 2013, in Bremerton, Washington, from cancer. Herb took college-level mathematics classes when he was 13 and earned a BA in mathematics from Reed. At the University of Colorado at Boulder, he completed a PhD in mathematics, writing a dissertation on prime numbers that was of particular value for code breaking. After teaching at Harvey Mudd College, he was enticed to join the elite number-theory faculty at the Ohio State University, where he taught until his retirement. Midlife, he discovered tantric Buddhism and founded the Karma Thegsum Choling Tibetan Buddhist center in downtown Columbus. Herb loved string quartets, photography, abstract mathematics, woodworking, cosmology, Puget Sound, cats, and trying to make sense of what other people felt. He was eternally grateful for the education that Reed afforded him, reports Laurel Richardson, his former wife who provided this memorial. “Reed gave me a wonderful education and a family when I needed one,” Herb wrote. Surviving a difficult childhood, alcohol addiction, mind-altering drugs, heart surgery, peritonitis, sepsis, prostate cancer, and a first bout of colon cancer, he chose to forego a third round of chemotherapy when colon cancer returned. Herb wanted to spend his last months living normally, chopping wood and carrying water, and he died near his log cabin on the Dosewallips River, not far from his childhood home of Port Orchard. Herb once remarked: “There is a saying that I did not make up, but expresses in humor what I think is important and sums up my life: the connection between the abstract and the grounded, the mysterious and the mundane. The ambiguity of life.” In addition to Laurel, survivors include sons Ben and Josh; grandchildren Shana and Akiva; and his companion, Moira McCluney. “In memoriam, please do something nice for someone in his name. He always had a kind heart.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2014

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