Yousef Alavi obituary

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Photo of Yousef .


Yousef Alavi, Western Michigan University emeritus in mathematics and statistics, died May 21. He was 85.

Alavi joined the faculty in 1958 and retired in 1996 after 38 years of service to the University. He was chair of what was then the Department of Mathematics and Statistics from 1989 to 1992 and coordinator of this department's graduate programs for several years.

Yousef Alavi

While at WMU, Alavi brought great energy into the classroom as well as to his numerous non-teaching activities.

He served as a graduate advisor, directing numerous doctoral projects and independent studies; directed honors projects; established a Mathematics and Statistics Club and a departmental newsletter; and instituted an awards day program.

He also presented seminars, developed new degree programs and updated existing ones, organized and directed a mathematics colloquium program, and played a pivotal role in organizing the quadrennial International Conference on Graph Theory, Combinatorics, Algorithms and Applications. That conference, which he directed or co-directed for all eight of its gatherings, brought world-renowned mathematicians and computer scientists to campus to discuss recent research and brought heightened visibility to WMU's highly ranked graph theory program.

Alavi's dedication to his students was recognized in 1996, when WMU presented him with what is now the Distinguished Teaching Award. In addition, his numerous contributions to the University and his profession were recognized in 1980, when Alavi was the first faculty member to receive WMU's Distinguished Service Award. The Department of Mathematics also noted his service by naming one of its rooms the Alavi Commons in his honor.

A prolific scholar, Alavi was awarded several grants and wrote or co-wrote scores of journal articles as well as 14 books and monographs. He was elected a fellow of the Institute of Combinatorics and Applications in 1990, served as a proposal reviewer for the National Science Foundation and served as a referee for several scholarly journals.

Alavi directed three China-USA International Conferences on Graph Theory and Applications and was active in numerous professional organizations. Among those organizations was the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America, which presented him with its first Distinguished Service Award and with its national Meritorious Service Award.

Alavi was active in a variety of state, local and national organizations as well as led or served on scores of departmental and University groups and projects. He received a joint tribute resolution from the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives in 1986 and became a charter member of the WMU Academy of Volunteers the same year.

The longtime Kalamazoo resident was a native of Iran who had lived in the United States since 1948. He began his professional career as an electrical engineer after earning a bachelor's degree in that field from Michigan State University in 1953. Alavi went on to earn master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics from MSU in 1955 and 1958, respectively.


Alavi will be remembered during a memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29, in Kanley Chapel. A private funeral and burial in Riverside Cemetery already took place.

Because June 29 is also WMU's graduation day, those planning to attend the campus memorial service who do not have a University parking permit should consider parking in the Wesley Foundation lot or one of the WMU lots within walking distance of Kanley Chapel.

The WMU lots are: 40, by the Sindecuse Health Center; 41, behind Sangren Hall (much of this lot is under construction); 44, in front of the Bernhard Center; and 61, by Everett Tower. Metered spaces in WMU lots are free on weekends, but tickets will be issued to cars not displaying the proper permit to park in handicapper, maintenance or other dedicated spaces.

Visit to make a memorial guestbook entry.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Alavi Mathematics Endowment Fund in care of the WMU Foundation, 1903 W. Michigan, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5403. The long-established fund supports significant projects that enhance research and graduate programs in University's Department of Mathematics.