Statistician joins ASU as inaugural Charles Wexler Professor

portrait of John Stufken

John Stufken has joined Arizona State University as the inaugural Charles Wexler Professor in Statistics at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

Stufken will lead the future expansion plans to form a department of statistics within the school. That growth will start with hiring two new faculty positions this year, and planning for five positions total over the first three years. The initial focus will be to substantially increase the quality and size of the school’s doctoral statistics program.

“Arizona State University has been very encouraging of collaborations, and through the expansion of our statistics department, we hope to make many new connections both within the campus and beyond,” Stufken said.

Stufken joins ASU from the University of Georgia, where he served as the head of the Department of Statistics for 11 years. During his tenure, he helped expand the department to raise national recognition.

“John Stufken brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his new post,” said Al Boggess, the director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “His experience will help us build a statistics department that will benefit Arizona State University through better research in theoretical, methodological and applied statistics, expansion of our statistics graduate program, and through top quality statistical consulting to the university and the outside industrial community.”

Stufken is the first Charles Wexler Professor at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, its inaugural endowed professorship.

The professorship is made possible by a generous endowment from the estate of Richard “Mike” McDaniel, an ASU alumnus. McDaniel considered Charles Wexler a mentor, and he attributed many of his professional and business values and successes to the influence of his professors.

Charles Wexler was the founding chairman of the Department of Mathematics at ASU. At the time of his retirement, he had accumulated 47 years of service, the longest period of faculty service in the university’s history. In 1977, the A-Wing of the Physical Sciences Complex was named after Wexler in appreciation of his outstanding service to the university.

McDaniel greatly valued the influence of Wexler on his studies at ASU. Wexler encouraged McDaniel to get a doctorate in mathematics. Although he did not pursue this, he thought in his later years that perhaps mathematics would have been a good path for him. He noted that math, an intensive part of the electrical engineering curriculum, was challenging for him. He credits professors like Wexler for making complex subjects more understandable. He would go on to earn his master's in electrical engineering.

“The Charles Wexler Professorship is truly a unique endowed professorship here at ASU. It was created by an alum who was so impacted by a professor that he named the endowment not after himself, but after his mentor, to help the future success of the school and to honor Charles Wexler’s legacy,” said Bill Kavan, senior director of development for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “John Stufken’s exceptionally high level of achievement in both teaching and research makes him an excellent choice for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Science’s inaugural Charles Wexler Professor.”

As University of Georgia’s head of statistics, Stufken was one of the architects of the Modeling and Analytics Graduate Network, or MAGNet program, a partnership with State Farm. Participating graduate students earned paid tuition and financial compensation in return for spending 20 hours a week conducting real-life research on projects directed by State Farm. He hopes to collaborate with State Farm here in Arizona to create a similar partnership.

Stufken previously served for several years as program director of statistics, Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation. He was also a professor at Iowa State University.

A native of the Netherlands, Stufken studied mathematics at the University of Nijmegen, now known as Radboud University. He earned his doctorate in statistics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

He is a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the American Statistical Association, and is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.

“To serve ASU and the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences in this capacity is a high honor,” Stufken said. “To have the opportunity to engage students in critical statistical research, increase the visibility of the university on a national scale, and build on president Michael Crow’s vision of more collaborative research makes it all the more rewarding.”

Stufken’s research and teaching interests consist of theory and application of designs of experiments, including optimal designs for generalized linear and nonlinear models, crossover designs and orthogonal arrays.