In Memoriam: Notre Dame mathematician Pit-Mann Wong

by Michael O. Garvey

Pit-Mann Wong

Pit-Mann Wong, professor of mathematics at the University of Notre Dame, died Saturday (July 3) at Saint Joseph’s Regional Medical Center of liver cancer. He was 61.

A native of Shantou, a port city in southern China, he grew up and attended schools in Hong Kong, becoming that city’s first-ranked high school student before entering National Taiwan University, from which he was graduated in 1971. He emigrated to the United States to do graduate studies at Notre Dame, earning a doctoral degree in mathematics in 1976. After teaching at Tulane and Rice Universities, he joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1980 and was promoted to full professor in 1985.

Wong’s Notre Dame tenure was marked both by distinguished research and popular teaching. A scholar of complex analysis and complex geometry, and particularly of Nevanlinna theory, which deals with value distribution of holomorphic functions, he served as a visiting member of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., and as an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow at Harvard University. His numerous publications include the recent book, “Theory of Complex Finsler Geometry and Geometry of Intrinsic Metrics.”

But his Notre Dame students remember his zest for teaching no less than his internationally renowned scholarship. In class, he described his field as “a beauty contest,” and even the least attentive of his students were incapable of resisting his contagiously joyful enthusiasm. Something of their gratitude is reflected in the many teaching awards Wong received from Notre Dame, including the Frank O’Malley Teaching Award in 2001, the Kaneb Teaching Award in 2002, the Madden Teaching Award in 2003, and the Shilts-Leonard Teaching Award in 2009.

Wong is survived by his wife of 34 years, Priscilla (Fong) Wong, associate director for administration of Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry office. Other survivors include his son, Ping-Yu Wong of Granger, Ind; his daughter, Dr. Serre-Yu Wong and her fiancé, Dr. Rohit Chandwani, both of New York; three brothers, Pit-Kin Wong, Dr. Pit-See Wong and Dr. Pit-Wang Wong, all of Hong Kong; a sister, Pit-Yee (Wong) Chow of Hong Kong; and a brother, Pit-Kwong Wong of Shanghai.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday (July 8) at the Kaniewski Funeral Home (3545 N. Bendix Drive, South Bend), where a prayer service will be held at 7:30 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday (July 9) in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame.

Memorial contributions may be made to the University of Notre Dame Pit-Mann Wong Memorial Fund, c/o Carol Hennion, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556. The fund is dedicated to the promotion of excellence in teaching and educating undergraduate and graduate students.