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May 28, 2014

SAS Global Forum: Evolution of Linear Models Talk

What a pleasure to hear Dr. Ramon Littell’s perspective on The Evolution of Linear Models at SAS Global Forum yesterday. Dr. Littell is the recently retired chair of the Department of Statistics at the University of Florida (my home state).

His analogy to “the perfect storm” was appropriate for the set of circumstances leading to such incredible collaborative contributions in the area of mixed models. Linking the critical thinking and feedback from those associated with USDA project S-189 to key participants — Bill Sanders, Francis Giesbrecht, Paul Cornelius, Walter Harvey, Richard Anderson, Charles Gates, Walter Stroup and Kenneth Koonce (the last two of whom were in attendance) — to the work Russ Wolfinger implemented in PROC MIXED was to many very important statistical history.

Dr. Littell said “the work that Russ Wolfinger did in designing and writing PROC MIXED is arguably the most important contribution of the last decade of the 20th century to statistical data analysis.” He went on to relay that one of Russ’ professors described Russ as not only the smartest person in his class, but also the hardest working.

Having worked with Russ off and on over the years at SAS — and happily joining him in the JMP division recently — I can also add that he is incredibly kind, good-natured, and committed to providing innovative implementations of statistical methods. His good work and leadership are now reflected in JMP Genomics and JMP Clinical.

It is a great motivating factor to see the collaborative contributions of such incredibly talented people — people like Russ who listen to experienced and thoughtful problem solvers and people like those Dr. Littell notes who share their ideas and then appreciate the synthesis of those ideas in better implementations of methods, making so much of their work so much easier.