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Fred Alan Rigby ’70

April 17, 2020, in Clancy, Montana.

Fred was the son of two Reed alumni, Fred D. Rigby ’35, who was a professor at Texas Tech University, and Vera Lenon Rigby ’37. He wrote his thesis, “Distribution Theory and the Laplace Transform,” with Prof. Edward Packel [mathematics 1967–71] advising. He was roommates for a year and a half with Maarten Ultee ’70, who recalled that “Fred was part of that remarkable cluster of geniuses and personalities in the class of 1970 that included Joseph Alex, Paul Jackson, Jeff Nakamura, Chris Price, Tom Findley, David Raich, Tracy Steelhammer, Steve Robinson, Linda Howard, Pat Mapps, Martha Downs, Loie Drew, Taz Wilson, and more that deserve mention.

“The science majors spent their evenings slaving over spreadsheets and slide rules. Pocket calculators and personal computers had not yet come into general use. Humanities majors read, read, and read some more, hoping that Reed would prepare them for graduate studies in history, law, medicine, and literature. I would return to our room after 1 a.m., past the witching hour of intervisitation, to find Fred and the gang hard at work with bright lights on and papers strewn everywhere. I had to ask: ‘What’s the matter, Fred? Did Dr. [Ken] Davis pile on the homework?’ ‘No,’ he groaned. ‘We’re just doing this for fun.’

“When we returned from a break, there was a mixup in the housing office. Suddenly there was no room for Fred on campus. What a disaster! Fred had carefully measured the distances between the dorm and each of his classes. What could he do now? The housing office had a listing for a job as a night watchman at the veterinary hospital. All Fred had to do was promise to come home to the dogs every night. No problem, but the hospital was more than a mile from campus. Fred found a solution. He bought a motorcycle and a thick leather jacket and roared into campus just in time for classes.

“Fred was a hard-working genius. He was the only person I knew who wrote two senior theses, albeit not by design. He had finished his first one before the deadline. Unfortunately he then discovered that a German researcher had already published a paper on the same topic! Fred would have to do something else, on short notice. He did it.”

Fred was a graduate student at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University and did a graduate student residence assistantship in atmospheric science at the University of Washington. He worked as a research scientist with Science Applications Corp. in Golden, Colorado, and in research and development at SRI International in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He taught for a year at the National University of Natural Medicine.

When his wife, Susan Lupton, got a job at the Montana Supreme Court library, he retired. She survives him, as do his daughters, Diane, Elizabeth, and Catherine. 

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2020

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