Ben Fox
Ph.D. Berkeley
Professeur Titulaire: 1972 - 1989

Mike Florian recruited me to DIRO. I approached this with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation. The latter stemmed from my rudimentary knowledge of French and wondering about adapting to a foreign country and different culture, in hindsight more different than I had imagined as an American who had naively thought of Canada as a quasi-clone of the USA and had not realized that Quebec thought of itself as a ``nation'' (there is no English equivalent of the French notion of ``nation''). Perhaps paradoxically, my enthusiasm stemmed from my desire to actually speak a foreign language and to immerse myself in a different culture as well as finding Montreal a beautiful city (the only large American city that comes close is San Francisco). Besides French, or perhaps more properly, Quebecois culture, Montreal turned out to have many ethnic communities that identify more strongly with their roots than in America. The ideal in American is the melting pot whereas in Canada it is the ethnic mosaic --- very different concepts indeed.

In Montreal, I greatly refined my taste for food and wine --- not only French but also, for example, Greek and Lebanese. Most Americans are rather parochial and unimaginative about cuisine and wine.

Professionally, DIRO is the only department with which I am familiar that combines computer science and operations research. Coming from the latter, I found exposure to the former stimulating. It strongly influenced my research. I knew little about simulation when I arrived at DIRO. Giving a course about it forced me learn. It was frustrating to find no suitable book on the subject. So, perhaps egotistically, I imagined that I could do better --- leading to a book with Paul Bratley and Linus Schrage, the latter from the University of Chicago. In part, this was made feasible by the Canadian grant system which --- in contrast to the American system --- allows wide latitude in the selection of research projects, not necessarily prescribing them narrowly in the grant proposals.

I recall warm colleagues and some excellent students, notably Michel Gendreau.