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Ilse Warschawski Trust Gives
$1 Million to Help UC San Diego
Recruit Outstanding Scholars

Late wife of department of mathematics founder
bolsters mathematics and Moores UCSD Cancer Center

May 13, 2009

By Jade Griffin

Photo of Ilse Warschawski
Ilse Warschawski left more than $1 million to support the Moores UCSD Cancer Center and the department of mathematics. She was 98.

Ilse Warschawski has left more than $1 million in her trust to the University of California, San Diego, in honor of her late husband and founder of the university’s department of mathematics, Stefan (Steve) Warschawski.  According to Ilse’s wishes, the gift is split between the department of mathematics and the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.  In both campus areas, the funds will help bring innovative, award-winning faculty members to UC San Diego, enhancing the university’s groundbreaking research and cutting-edge advancements which have an impact locally, nationally and globally.

Nearly five decades ago, Steve Warschawski arrived at the newly established UC San Diego campus, with Ilse, and set out to build the university’s math department from the ground up.  The couple is still remembered on campus for creating a warm, inviting environment that attracted 24 faculty members to UC San Diego’s new math department in just three years.  Those early years were filled with elaborate dinner parties prepared by Ilse to help interest new faculty members in the fledgling campus, which has grown to become the 7th best public university in the nation.

Mathematics of Giving

To recruit outstanding faculty to the department which her husband founded, Ilse’s gift will establish an endowed faculty chair in UC San Diego’s department of mathematics.  Endowed faculty chairs provide a powerful incentive to bring distinguished scientists and researchers to the university.  At UC San Diego, although state funds provide basic faculty salaries, permanent endowed funds support chair holders’ teaching and research efforts, which may include travel, assistance for graduate students and other costs.

“Steve Warschawski was the first and only faculty member in the department when he came to campus in 1963,” said Sam Buss, chair of the mathematics department.  “The close-knit foundation that Steve and Ilse fostered is still evident today. With her gift, Ilse has left a lasting impression on the department, as faculty recruitment is absolutely essential to its continued advancement.”

Photo of Ilse Warschawski
Stefan (Steve) Warschawski founded UC San Diego’s department of mathematics in 1963.

Support to Find a Cure

In addition to benefiting the math department, Ilse’s gift will also support the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, in honor of her husband of 43 years, who succumbed to cancer in 1989.  The funding will help recruit leading physicians and researchers devoted to basic and clinical cancer research, providing advanced patient care and serving the community through outreach and education programs.

“This gift is important to attracting the most talented doctors and scientists who will help the Moores UCSD Cancer Center continue to rank among the nation’s top cancer centers,” said Dennis Carson, MD, director of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, which is one of 41 centers in the U.S. designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.  “We are very grateful for Ilse Warschawski’s generosity in supporting the quest for a cure for cancer.”

A Lasting Legacy

In 1967, Steve stepped down from his position as chair of the department due to health concerns, but the couple retained their strong bond with UC San Diego.  He continued as a professor until 1971, after which he occasionally returned to teach math courses until 1981. Ilse remained active in Oceanids, a campus organization which welcomes new faculty, staff, spouses and visitors to UC San Diego, and funds fellowships and undergraduate awards recognizing scholarship and service.  Ilse was honored as the “Oceanid of the Year” in 1984.  She also established a fund in honor of her husband to give stipends to graduate students, which help attract outstanding candidates.

In 1996, friends and colleagues contributed toward a bench to honor the Warschawskis’ impact on the university. Located near the Applied Physics and Mathematics Building, the bench bears a plaque reading: “To honor Stefan and Ilse Warschawski for their outstanding efforts in the founding of the Mathematics Department.  From the friends of Steve and Ilse.”


Media Contact: Jade Griffin, 858-822-5309 or jadegriffin@ucsd.edu

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