February 1996 € Volume 23 € No. 1


President's Gavel Passes to Blumstein

Alfred Blumstein became the second president of INFORMS on Jan. 1, succeeding John D.C. Little who presided over the Institute during its first year in existence following the merger of TIMS and ORSA. Blumstein was elected to the top post by the membership in 1994 and served the past year as president-elect.

Blumstein, professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research and former dean of the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University, takes office at a critical time for the Institute, a period marked by pressing problems and unprecedented opportunities.

"Too many corporations are terminating their OR/MS groups, and too many academic OR/MS departments are shrinking or are having difficulty placing their graduates," Blumstein says. "We must question whether our current product mix is as attractive as it was in the era before the massive availability of computers and software packages replaced some of the work that used to be done by OR/MS groups.

"This is particularly ironic because my experience suggests that OR/MS people are among the most capable problem solvers I know, and society's organizations desperately need those skills. This issue requires some focused leadership by INFORMS to address some of these problems."

As outlined in his presidential candidate statement, Blumstein's agenda includes:
  • "working with universities -- especially OR/MS departments -- to revise their curricula to strengthen generic and flexible problem-solving skills";
  • "being more aggressive and focused in identifying for current and potential clients the special competencies OR/MS people can bring";
  • "strengthening the efforts by CPMS and others to identify and report on success stories, especially in new application areas";
  • "encouraging (INFORMS) journals to report more on such successes";
  • "providing recognition for those who achieve success";
  • "encouraging the most competent and most committed young people to see the excitement and opportunity in OR/MS that we found."
"I have devoted much of my career to being a 'missionary,' bringing OR/MS perspectives to a variety of important problem areas," Blumstein continues. "I believe we are at a point in our history when that task must be pursued collectively with more aggressiveness and more effectiveness."

Blumstein's INFORMS roots go back more than 40 years. He joined ORSA in 1952, TIMS in 1956. Over the years he has held numerous posts in both organizations, including the presidency (ORSA, 1977-78; TIMS, 1987-88). Blumstein was an outspoken leader in the merger movement which led to the creation of INFORMS two years ago.

Blumstein was awarded ORSA's Kimball Medal in 1985 "for service to the profession and the society." He also received the first ORSA President's Award in 1993 "for service to society."

After earning a bachelor's degree in Engineering Physics at Cornell University in 1951, Blumstein started work at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory. During his tenure there (1951-1961), he earned his Ph.D. in operations research from Cornell. In 1961 he went to work at the Institute for Defense Analyses. He joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in 1969.

Blumstein served as dean of CMU's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management from 1986 through 1993. He is currently the School's J. Erick Jonsson Professor (since 1978) and University Professor (since 1995) of Urban Systems and Operations Research.

Blumstein's research over the past 20 years has covered many aspects of criminal justice phenomena and policy, including crime measurement, criminal careers, sentencing, deterrence and incapacitation, prison populations, system flow modeling and demographic trends. Prior to that, he performed research on transportation, air traffic control, military operations and fleet air defense. He has published more than 100 papers.

From 1991-92, Blumstein served as president of the American Society of Criminology and received its Sutherland Award (1987) for "contributions to research."

Blumstein has also served as director of the Task Force on Science and Technology for the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1966-67); as a member of the NAS Committee on Research on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1975-86) and as its chairman (1979-84); and has chaired the committee's panels on Research on Deterrent and Incapacitative Effects, on Sentencing Research, and on Research on Criminal Careers. Blumstein is currently a member of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Research Council.
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