In memory of Lawrence H. "Larry" Harper, Professor of Mathematics

UC Riverside Professor Lawrence H. Larry Harper

Lawrence H. "Larry" Harper, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, passed away in October 2023. Professor Harper was a great contributor to mathematics, and influential colleges, and a friend to many. 

Born August 27, 1938, Professor Harper received his Bachelor's Degree in Physics at UC Berkeley in 1961, followed by his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Oregon in 1965. From 1965 to 1970 he worked as Assistant Professor at The Rockefeller University in New York. Professor Harper also served as Visiting Professor at Brown University in 1974 and at Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany in 1979. He joined UC Riverside as Associate Professor of Mathematics in 1970, and retired from the university as Professor of Mathematics in 2006. He also served as a Jet Propulsion Laboratory summer sessions Research Engineer in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1968, as well as Research Engineering at the Center for Communications Research in La Jolla, CA in 1995.

Professor Harper was a member of the American Mathematical Society and a National Science Foundation Fellow from 1963 to 1965. He frequently published articles on the topic of combinatorics, including "Size of the largest antichain in a partition poset" in Problems of Information Transmission in 2002 and "On the Bandwidth of a Hamming Graph" in Theoretical Computer Science in 2003. Professor Harper also published "On the Isoperimetric Problem for Hamming Graphs" in Discrete Applied Mathematics in 1999, followed by "The edge-isoperimetric problem for regular planar tessellations" in Ars Combinatoria in 2001. He published the monograph "Global Methods for Combinatorial Isoperimetric Problems" with Cambridge University Press in 2004.

Professor Harper was passionate about the field of combinatorics throughout his career. "When I got my degree in 1965, I decided to specialize in combinatorics, anticipating that the computer would have a profound impact on mathematics," he wrote in a self-statement. "I chose combinatorics because it was relatively undeveloped and perfectly situated to interact synergistically with the computer." Professor Harper served as liaison with the UC Riverside Department of Computer Science before he retired, and designed the Math 11 and Math 111 courses for the Fall 2004 syllabus in consultation with Math and Computer Science faculty members.

Larry Harper by Dr. John de Pillis
Illustration by Dr. John de Pillis

Outside of his research interests, Professor Harper co-chaired UC Riverside's Sexual Harassment Education Committee from 1988-1998, and served on the Board of Directors for the UCR Athletic Association from 1992-1997, where he created the Hueston M. and Margaret W. Harper Award for Outstanding Scholar-Athletes in honor of his parents, who were physical education instructors. He also served on the Faculty Senate Committee on Preparatory Education from 2001-2005. Professor Harper also served as a member of the Academic Senate Committee on Physical Resources in 1995, a position he held until retirement, and also served as a mentor for the Minority Summer Research Internship Program in 1997.

Professor Harper was remembered by his colleagues as a "folk hero in combinatorics." From his earliest days at UC Riverside, his colleagues could not miss the combination of Professor Harper's easy personal manner and sharp professional skills. He mentored several students during his time at UCR, including Joseph Dean Chavez, Ching Guu, Hosien Moghadam, Joseph Vasta, and Arlan Wareham, all of whom were grateful for his inculcating them with a passion for doing research. His colleagues regarded him as a brilliant and caring person who guided his students through their first forays into mathematical research and mentored them as they pursued their academic interests both at UC Riverside and beyond.

Read more about Professor Harper's contributions to math and his connections with his peers and students.

View Professor Harper's math genealogy webpage

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