Howard L. Hiller – RIP Little Brother


Gottingen, Germany 1981

Very sad news from the States. My younger brother passed away two days ago. Deepest condolences to his wife Barbara and their two sons, Ben and Evan.

Postscript:

Howard was my younger brother. We were only 18 months apart and extremely close growing up in Brooklyn as well as later on as young adults. Many of you might not be aware that Howard was a “radical” young man of the late sixties- very politicized and to the far left. He managed to get us both arrested as teenagers for arguing with two police officers about our rights to stand in between two parked cars on public property. He was brilliant and very articulate even back then but the police officer was not impressed by his logic. It was my mothers Chutzpah that eventually bailed us out. How dare you arrest her two boys!!! She let that officer have it. I guess he wasn’t intimidated since the following year (1968) he helped organize the local protest at our high school against the infamous teachers union strike for almost a month. Those were violent times and we faced threats from the community. Again, our mother supported her boys.

Shortly after at the ripe age of 16 Howard came out to visit me in LA in the summer of 1969 – he was still in high School-  and audited Philosophy classes at UCLA. He had managed to look up a renowned logician named Donald Kalish who headed the Philosophy department. Kalish and another very far out European professor took Howie under their wing. His hero at the time was Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Mathematics (after all it served him well) must have seemed more practical to major in at Cornell. He was always trying to explain formulas and proofs to me but lost me after less then a minute.

I recall such happy memories from our time in New York in the late seventies/ early eighties, especially during the summer roaming the city, listening to music and eating great meals at Peter and Barbara’s. Their loft was the unofficial meeting place for us “locals” and friends from Europe and Brazil. Ah youth.

After a stint teaching at Columbia University Howard entered the financial sector giving up his work shirts and boots for a suit. Looking back he was barely 30 years old at the time. It took courage to change careers like that.

As many of you commented Howie was a sweet and gentle person. He was very generous and good natured and I wonder what the impact of this new environment had on him? He worked hard but still managed to write short stories. He still had a creative need.

A few years later after our father passed away we both got married and began raising families. I was on the west coast so visits were far and few between.

Flash- forward to October 2008. I’m shocked by my little brothers passing.  It’s a huge loss for all that knew him. I hope this little story sheds some light about another side of my brother, especially to his sons Ben and Evan. In Howie’s last email to me last month he told me about your studies and music making and was so proud of the both of you

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14 thoughts on “Howard L. Hiller – RIP Little Brother

  1. jsamah

    I’m so sorry Sir. Please accept my condolences. I pray God gives you and your family the strength to get pass this.

    Reply
  2. Enrique Bacalao

    Geoffrey,
    Howard was a gifted man and an extraordinary friend. His warmth and sense of fun matched the breadth of his knowledge and his dedication to his customers and colleagues. We all came to rely on him. The sharp sense of loss underscores my gratitude that our paths crossed, and impels me to extend my deeply felt condolences to his family and his friends. Your website serves to remind me of him.

    Reply
  3. Enrique Bacalao

    The following was circulated by Howard’s colleagues Citigroup as an unprecedented homage from them:

    It is with a very heavy heart that we regret to inform you of the untimely passing of Howard Hiller.

    Howard was born June 19, 1953 and raised in the Bayview Housing projects of Canarsie, Brooklyn. Mr. Hiller received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1974 and an M.S. and Ph.D. from MIT in 1978, all in Mathematics. He was awarded postdoctoral fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the American Mathematical Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

    Before joining Citigroup, Mr. Hiller taught at Yale University and Columbia University and did post-doctoral work at Oxford University and Universitat Goettingen. In 1982, he published a monograph entitled: “Geometry of Coxeter Groups.” In 1987, he was given the Lester R. Ford award for an article published in the American Mathematical Monthly. He joined Salomon Brothers in 1986 working in the Financial Strategy Group where he advised clients on financial policy issues, ranging from dividend policy to capital structure management to corporate valuation. At that time, he also published

    several research reports on funding nuclear decommissioning expenses and participated in an advisory panel on that topic appointed by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

    Howard had over 20 years of Power and Utility industry experience. His accomplishments included advising utilities, regulators and state legislators on the application of structured finance to funding stranded costs, storm costs and environmental costs. He presented to state legislators in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan and Rhode Island; acted as a regulatory witness for PECO Energy, Detroit Edison and Con Edison; and been an invited speaker at many industry conferences on this topic.

    His legacy and impact are apparent in every facet of Citigroup. He acted as advisor to leaders firm wide, as a mentor for developing professionals and as the “Professor” to all junior members of the team. The quintessential banker and the consummate professional, Howard had an unwavering commitment to his clients. He was simply the best in his field.

    His passion for mathematics and the markets was only exceeded by the love he had for his family. In addition to his family, he enjoyed music, (especially Bob Dylan,) book collecting, and was a reader of “everything” from arcane to popular authors. He spoke German and Thai and fondly reminisced about long stays in Thailand and Guatemala as a young man.

    Howard is survived by his wife Barbara, his sons Ben and Evan (of Westfield New Jersey,) and his brother Geoffrey (of Portland, Oregon).

    Howard will be dearly missed by all of us.

    In lieu of flowers, donations may be directed to Natural Resources Defense Council:

    NRDC
    Attention: Katharine Houston
    40 West 20th Street
    11th Floor
    New York, NY 10011

    Alternatively, please go online as follows:
    http://www.nrdc.org

    Click on the Donations Button
    There will be “In Honor Of” select button.

    <>

    Reply
  4. Alan

    Geoff,

    I had gotten really busy in the last 2 weeks, recovering from a bad cold, catching up with work, but I thought, “tonight’s my chance to see what’s happening to Geoff in Dhaka”. No way could I guess that your tragedy would be the first thing I see.

    I am so sorry that your brother’s death comes now – he was much too young – and with you so far from the family you love. I wish you the strength, the serenity, and the courage to accept your pain, which must be very deep. I see in the comments here that your brother, who was so gifted, touched many many people. His memory, his life, touches all who knew him, and through them, he touches us all.

    I hope you will find comfort and quiet amid life’s inevitable storms. I want to send to you, and your family, my warmest thoughts and my deepest condolences.

    Reply
  5. Susan and Floyd

    Dear Geoff,
    Words fall short in expressing our deep sympathy. The loss of a sibling is so sad AND scary. Please know our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Reply
  6. munafchowdhury

    Hey Mr. Hiller, deeply grieved to hear about your brother. Please accept my deepest condolences. I pray for your family and may your brother rest in peace.
    Please take care.

    Reply
  7. Dilip Barua

    I am really upset to hear this although it is too late. Because I am so busy that I could not able to visit you website.
    I pray to God to make strength power from the shock.

    I pray may your brother rest in peace.

    Reply
  8. Peter Littig

    Dear Geoffrey,

    I’m very saddened to learn of your brother’s death. Although I never knew him, I admired him through his mathematical works. His “Geometry of Coxeter Groups” is an excellent text and was a nearly constant companion to me during much of my own doctoral work. Just this afternoon, a colleague and I were talking about one of your brother’s results. I said, “I wonder why Hiller left mathematics anyway.” I then joked–with a degree of both fondness and good humor–that I would email him and ask. “Maybe I’ll convince him to come back to math and work on this problem with us!” It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that my chance to email him has passed.

    It sounds like your brother was a wonderful sibling and a beloved friend. May he live on through his works and the memories of those he touched.

    I wish you, your family, and Howard’s family the very best.

    Sincerely,

    Peter Littig

    Assistant Professor of Mathematics
    University of Washington, Bothell

    Reply
  9. Barry Rich

    Professor Hiller was my first Calculus professor at Columbia during my freshman year (1982). I have vivid memories of him lecturing to us on the lawn in front of the Mathematics building. I was 18 and I thought he was the greatest teacher I had ever had the fortune of meeting. My son is now going to attend Columbia and the very first name I looked up was Howard Hiller with the faint hope that he was still teaching and maybe my son could experience the true joy I had being in his class. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. His good nature and wonderful personality are still memories I have 30 years later as I look backwards and forwards at the Columbia experience. I just wanted you to know that he truly had an impact on people.. especially an 18 year old in his first year at college..

    Reply

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