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Professor Ward Cheney

Obituary for Professor Ward Cheney

June 28, 1929 - July 13, 2016
Austin, Texas | Age 87


Professor Elliott Ward Cheney, Jr., age 87, always known as "Ward," passed away on July 13, 2016. He was born on June 28, 1929 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the younger of two children of E. W. Cheney, Sr. and Carleton (Pratt) Cheney. In mathematics, he was one of the pioneers in the fields of approximation theory and numerical analysis.

Ward joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1964, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 2005. He was a fine clarinetist and, until 2012, played weekly with a chamber music trio.

Ward's bachelor's degree in mathematics was from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where his father was on the physics faculty. After earning his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Kansas in 1957, Ward was in the aerospace industry in southern California. At Convair Astronautics in San Diego, his mathematics team worked on calculations for the computerized guidance system for the Atlas rocket. He was also with Space Technology Laboratory in Los Angeles before joining the math faculty at UCLA.

Ward and his first wife Beth were the parents of three children, Margaret, Elliott and David Cheney, who attended the "Tarrytown triumvirate": Casis, O. Henry, and Austin High, while the family resided on Schulle Avenue. Beth Cheney remarried in 1975 (Jesse Root) and passed away in 1991. Their three children all earned their doctorates. Margaret Cheney is a math professor at Colorado State University. Elliott Cheney is a cellist residing in Salt Lake City. David Cheney is a science and technology policy consultant residing in the Washington, D.C. area.

Ward is also survived by his devoted wife Victoria, his sister Carleton Schwager of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania and her family, and by three grandchildren: Alex and Austin (David), and Livingston (Elliott). Also mourning his passing are his children's spouses: artist Kevin Aldrich (Margaret), cellist Dr. Carey Cheney (Elliott), and biology professor Dr. Alexandra Fairfield (David).

Ward's steadfast friend Dr. David Kincaid, retired from the UT computer science faculty, is also the co-author of Ward's numerical analysis textbooks. The family is grateful for his many kindnesses during Ward's final illness. Also left to cherish his memory are pianist Wanda Reynolds and cellist John Cox, members of his chamber music trio. Ward was predeceased by long-time friend and co-author, Prof. William A. Light, of Lancaster and Leicester universities, England. For 22 years, Will Light arranged for Ward to spend May and June in Lancaster (and later, Leicester), including a memorable 1984 sabbatical semester in Lancaster for Ward and Victoria.

Ward was a fellow of the American Mathematical Society and the author or co-author of 103 research papers. He was associate editor of ten mathematical journals and gave 165 invited lectures and colloquium talks around the world. The author of 11 textbooks, his 1966 An Introduction to Approximation Theory is considered a classic and is still in print.

Ward ran, swam and rode his bike daily, and had many friends at Gregory Gym on the UT campus. He had to put aside these activities, along with his mathematics -- and finally his clarinet -- when he was overtaken by Alzheimer's. The family expresses its gratitude to the caring staff at Buckner Villas, and especially to his private caregiver Mike Arnold, who was with Ward full-time for nearly two years.

Interment of ashes will take place at New York City Marble Cemetery, where Ward's parents and his mother's ancestors are buried.

The memorial service for Ward Cheney will be held on Saturday, September 17 at 2 p.m. at Weed-Corley-Fish, 3125 North Lamar.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Austin Symphony Orchestra, 1101 Red River, 78701; Ballet Austin, 501 W. 3rd Street, 78701; or Alzheimer's Texas, 3520 Executive Center Drive #140, 78731.

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Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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