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Gathering celebrates Ragnar-Olaf Buchweitz, mathematics professor who taught at U of T for 30 years

Professor Ragnar-Olaf Buchweitz was remembered as a professor who shared his passion for mathematics with his colleagues and students (photos by Ken Jones)

The University of Toronto community gathered recently to celebrate the life of mathematics Professor Ragnar-Olaf Buchweitz, who died in November at the age of 65.

Buchweitz also served as vice-principal (academic) and dean at U of T Scarborough.

At the celebration of life ceremony, held at Miller Lash House on Jan. 26, Bruce Kidd, U of T vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough, recalled first meeting Buchweitz at an assembly with the Ministry of Education where he gave an impassioned speech on improving curricula for university-bound students.

“He began by tearing strips off of the high schools and ministry for their irregular and inconsistent preparation of students, with a long litany of examples. It was one of the fiercest speeches I’d ever seen,” Kidd said. “But he didn’t stop there. He shared a remarkably prepared and outlined plan as to how the boards and ministry could achieve what he suggested and offered his support. That was classic Ragnar.”

Buchweitz (left) was born in the small Prussian town of Neuruppin, Germany on March 18, 1952. He enrolled at the University of Hannover in 1969 and earned his PhD six years later. He started teaching at the University of Toronto in 1987.

He was celebrated for his contributions to mathematics not only in Toronto but in his home country as well. In 2010, Buchweitz received the Humboldt Research Award – a lifetime achievement award to experts who have made noteworthy advancements in their field – from his fellow researchers in Germany.

Buchweitz’s wife Ruth spoke at the gathering, commenting on his love for his field of research and his job. “As I learned this morning, today is the international day of fun at work. Ragnar did not need a special day like this. Whether it was for his lessons or for his students, he always left the house with enthusiasm,” she said. 

 “Sometimes there were frustrating days when he’d be working on a problem, with his head making almost as much smoke as his cigarillos,” she added. “Finally he’d come to me with sparkling eyes and a smile on his face, which told me before he spoke a single word, ‘I did it.’”

Read the full story about the celebration of life ceremony