Clifford Earle Jr.

Obituary of Clifford Earle Jr.

Clifford John Earle died June 12, 2017 at the Hospicare Residence, with Lisa, his wife for 56 years, at his side. The Hospicare staff provided wonderful support and comfort in his last weeks.

Cliff was born in Racine, Wisconsin on November 3, 1935, a date he provided at many medical appointments during his struggle with prostate cancer. A major event in his youth was the family move from Chicago to Philadelphia, where his father, a Presbyterian minister, took a position in the church national Office of Church and Society. Cliff was an only child and often spoke of his loneliness after having to leave good friends behind in Chicago. He was "First Honor Man" (valedictorian) of the 200th class of Central High School in Philadelphia, a selective public boys' school with a long history. 

He majored in physics at Swarthmore College and graduated with Highest Honors in 1957. Musical activities were an important part of his time there. Notably he was a good friend of Peter Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach), who wrote several pieces dedicated to Cliff. 

Cliff and Lisa married in December 1960 while they were graduate students at Harvard, each with an NSF Fellowship. He earned his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1962 under supervision of Lars Ahlfors.

Cliff spent two years as a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In 1965 he joined the Cornell Mathematics Department as an Assistant Professor and was rapidly promoted to tenure. He remained at Cornell for the rest of his career, serving as Department Chair from 1976 to 1979 and retiring as Emeritus Professor in 2005. His research on complex analysis, especially Riemann surfaces,

quasiconformal mappings, and Teichm├╝ller spaces, resulted in over 80 widely cited papers. His work allowed him to travel around the world, including Ghana, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, India, China, Sweden, Finland, and Mexico. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, Distinguished Ordway Visitor at University of Minnesota, Honorary Professor at University of Warwick, and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). Professional service included four years as Managing Editor of the Proceedings of the AMS and many more on editorial boards. Cliff was widely regarded as a generous and caring mentor to younger mathematicians and as a kind and honorable colleague.

Cliff was also an active musician throughout his life. He was a serious and excellent pianist. After retirement, he resumed piano lessons for the first time since graduate student days. He often accompanied singers or musical groups such as the Savoyards. A highlight of his musical life was public performance of Schubert song cycles sung by Thom Baker. His large music collection included not only classics but much modern music. He told the Glimmerglass Opera Director that he wanted to hear more operas written by people born after he was. 

Cliff sang in the Ithaca Presbyterian Church choir for many decades but moved to the Unitarian Church with Lisa in 2006 and became an important part of their music program. He was a key bass in the choir, organized summer service music schedules, and often played hymns for services. 

Although Cliff took many aspects of life very seriously, he had a lighter side as well. Among his pleasures were Beatles and Beach Boy songs, summer trips to Ogunquit, Maine, Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, single malt whiskey, Turner Classic movies, and Sudoku puzzles. One of his favorite quotes was "time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted".

Cliff is survived by wife Elizabeth "Lisa" Deutsch Earle, daughters Rebecca (Matt Western, Leamington, UK) and Susan (Cambridge, MA), grandsons Gabriel and Isaac, and first cousin Ed (Bobbie) Griffith.

A celebration of Cliff's life will be held at the First Unitarian Church at a date to be announced. In place of flowers, memorials may be made to First Unitarian Church, Hospicare, Cornell Math Department Outreach Program, or Ithaca Advocacy Center.