In memory of our beloved Marvin Knopp who died on December 24, 2011

Many people who loved Marvin were not able to attend his funeral because of the suddenness of his death. For those of you who would like to view the service for my father please click on this YouTube link.

Please note that this link consists of four sequential videos totaling 71 minutes in length.

Contributions in his memory may be made to Camphill Soltane, 224 Nantmeal Road, Glenmoore, Pennsylvania 193434, or to Meir Panim.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Great photos of Marvin and his children.

More photos of Marvin and his children. I love these photos. You can see why I called him handsome. Kathryn P.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I met Marvin about four years ago, at of all places, a bris on the Upper East Side. He was charming and witty, a guy that any kid would love to call "Dad." I wasn't sure whether I should call him Mr. Knopp or Dr. Knopp. I was raised in an Italian family and respect is very high on the list of things I was taught. After much internal debate, I settled on Dr. Knopp; after all, he was one of the planet's most brilliant matematicians. Well, you can imagine the reaction he had to that, so I decided to just call him "handsome." I called him "handsome" every time I saw him.

I always enjoyed my time with Marvin. We talked about so many things: the Black Sox scandal, why Ray Milland was NOT listed in Maltin's movie guide, and about Einstein, one of my favorite subjects. It turned out to be one of his, too. I know a lot of old movies, old actors, and old songs, thanks to my mother. Marvin was often surprised at my knowledge of things that came before my time. He would ask me if I had seen this movie or that movie, some relatively obscure, and I would say " yes, that starred so-and-so actress or actor." He was always amazed and appreciated the richness of the moment. That was Marvin.

The last time I saw him, Marvin drove Elana and I--which was an experience all by itself--to one of his favorite places, Heimie's, a little Jewish deli in Narberth. He laughed, made jokes, and sang some very wonderful old songs. He was eating blintzes with sour cream, one of his favorite things. It was a great time. Being with Marvin was a great time. I feel a richer person having known him. He was the father I never had.

I will miss him. I hope he is sitting with Albert right now discussing the universe and how his ideas may have been expanded.

A tribute to Marvin

I've heard it said that when a person passes away, a whole world passes away. One of the things that always struck me most in Marvin was how alive in all his activities and presence that world was. Facets of it that I was privileged to experience through my friendship with him included his earlier days in Chicago, his love (a word he did not hesitate to use) for his family and friends, his celebration of his heritage and his belonging to a long-standing academic tradition that embraces the totality of intellectual achievement. Marvin's mathematical activities formed naturally a central part of this world, and therefore it is not surprising that the feeling of joy and humanity in his "doing Math" became immediately clear to those who met him. Likewise, it is not a coincidence that the impact of his work is continually increasing (recent important results refer to papers published by Marvin decades ago) and that the influence of his mathematical ideas is extending to a broader circle of mathematicians. I
believe it is that intense air of life in Marvin's nature and all his activity that made the news of his loss, in a very literal sense, unexpected and hard to come to terms with.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wissam Raji

As some of you might know a few months ago, we started organizing a workshop on modular forms and related topics at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon. I contacted Dr. Knopp to ask him to come and give a mini-course in the workshop. At first, he showed interest and we exchanged a couple of emails. I was almost certain that he was going to come to the workshop until a week before his death when he mentioned that he can not do it.

As a result, I will be dedicating the workshop to the memory of Marvin Knopp. This person deserves a lot more than that but for the time being this is the best I can offer for his memory. 
Please check the following link:

I hope some of you can make it to the workshop.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Carl Mayer

Marvin was all-mensch, all-the-time.

I first met Marvin shortly after I asked his de facto step-daughter Karen on a date. Karen had accepted my invitation to attend a B.B. King concert the week after I met her at a New York City party. On the night of the concert, I arrived at the Blues Club; Karen never appeared. Instead, Karen went to spend the weekend visiting with Marvin and her mother Phyllis in Philadelphia. Few men were any competition for Marvin. (As Karen later explained, it’s important to stand-up a man at least once to let them know who is boss.) I wound up trying to sell my extra ticket to the concert at the door of the Blues Club. I let it be known that I would part with the $35 dollar ticket for $20. A homeless man, smelling faintly of Night Train Express, offered me two bucks and that’s how my first date with my future wife involved attending a concert with a homeless person while Karen visited with Marvin.

With my courtship off to a good start, I knew the biggest challenge would be getting Marvin’s approval. Marvin was too kind to openly express his disapproval, but I knew I had a high bar to hurdle because a lawyer is a real step down from a Mathematician and Marvin had a long-standing policy of setting up Karen with his students. Pretty soon the Marvin-Tilly Life Exam/Boot Camp was administered. None of Karen’s prior boyfriends had passed this test, let alone survived it. It involved a visit to the home of Tilly: Karen’s then 90-year old grandmother, with Marvin presiding.

Marvin’s first pitch was high and inside. “I assume you have heard of my very good friend legal historian Lawrence Friedman?” was his first question to me. “Oh yes, I read Professor Friedman’s History of American Law with great interest and in fact found it to be on a par with Professor Morton Horwitz’s Transformation of American Law 1870-1960 as one of the most important books in American legal history of the last half-century” I answered. I hit that one out of the park.

“What’s your favorite movie?” asked Marvin suspiciously. “Casablanca’ I said without hesitation, partly because my family traveled through there when they fled the Nazis in 1940.” (Second pitch over the fence.) “I think Tilly needs some help with the crossword puzzle”, said Marvin probing for weakness. “Great, I love a challenge.” (Only later would I learn that Tilly finishes the New York Times crossword by noon everyday and still does so at age 97.) I wasn’t as good as Marvin at this endeavor but with a few clutch assists like “Nawab” and “Quisling” I hit some solid singles. Marvin remained wary: “I bet you’ve never been to Wrigley field.” “Well actually, Professor Knopp, I attended games at Wrigley, but the key is you have to get the obstructed seats or bleachers; those are the real bargains.” Marvin loved a deal almost as much as he loved the Cubs. Grand-Slam walk-off home run.

Now that I had Marvin’s approval, I was in the clear and only had to get Karen to agree to actually show up on a date with me. Tilly grudgingly gave her approval, based on Marvin’s reluctant say-so, but to this day she thinks all lawyers are useful primarily as fish-bait. That first afternoon and evening with Marvin, we discussed, in no particular order, the history of American Jazz, theories of physics, the Chicago Cubs, the best diners in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Black Sox scandal, the history of the Fox-Trot, and the origins of the Yiddish language. Marvin was a consummate teacher, both in and out of the classroom.

To borrow a phrase from his chosen profession, Marvin was an extraordinarily congruent person. There was no artifice or malice to him. He sought truth and beauty in his mathematical research and he strived to bring those same qualities to his family and collegial relationships. Marvin was uncommonly devoted not only to Phyllis but to his three children – who he raised to become unique and compassionate individuals – and to Karen and her brothers. Those that give more to the world than take from the world are a distinct minority, and Marvin was among them.

Marvin had the M’s all sewed up. Mensch. Maven on Life. Mathematician. It is fitting that M is the 13th letter in the alphabet. The number 13 has particular significance in Judaism; there are said to be 13 attributes of G-d and the philosopher Maimonides formulated his 13 principles of faith. Anyone who met Marvin could pretty rapidly discern at least 13 qualities Marvin possessed that made him a righteous man. The Talmud says that the greater the loss, the heavier the heart. Many are of heavy heart since his passing.

Farewell Marvin.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My father's tribute to his friend Gene Golub

My father's friendships seemed to find no obstacle in distance or circumstance. Many of them lasted a lifetime. His relationship with Gene, his close friend and college roommate, was one of those deep and lasting friendships.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A tribute written by my father

I thought I would offer a link found by my wife Violaine, to a tribute written by my father in appreciation of the mathematician Emil Grosswald. My father's friend and colleague Wendell Ressler described the circumstances of this tribute to me quite beautifully.

"Your father was working on the Grosswald volume when I was getting to know him in the early 90's at Temple; he thought very highly of Emil Grosswald and wanted to get the introduction right. (I remember he was very impressed by that phone call from Grosswald giving his regrets for missing the talk because he was in the hospital - dying as it turned out. Marvin told that story several times.) I think Marvin did get the introduction right - it is a nice tribute, but also a clear expression of Marvin's values. It is especially poignant to read him honoring a mentor, as we remember him now."