|"... The Way We Knew Him 63|
"Hello Ernie," and My Day Was Made by Ernest Kurnow I first met Dr. Deming almost half a century ago when, as a young instructor in economics (at that time) in our undergraduate school, I ..."
Ernest Kurnow (born 1912) is a professor of undergraduate business statistics at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University, where he has been teaching since 1948. In his tenure at NYU, he has served as director of the Doctoral Program and was the chairman of the Department of Statistics and Operations Research from 1962 to 1976. Aside from his teaching activities, Kurnow has consulted government organizations, private corporations, and public utilities in the areas of finance, survey design, and forecasting.
Professor Kurnow Attended the City College of New York, from where he received his B.S. in 1932 and his M.S. in 1933. In 1951, he received a Ph.D. from New York University.
Wife Joyce Kurnow
Children - Three Daughters - Ruth Jarrett, Susan Weistrop, and Alice Morin
- NYU Alumni Great Teacher Award in 1974
- Fellow of the American Statistical Association
- Elected to the International Statistical Institute
The Constant Statistician
By Daniel Gross
This fall, when 94-year-young Ernest Kurnow (PhD ’51), professor emeritus of business statistics, enters the classroom to teach Statistics for Business Control and Regression and Forecasting Models, it will mark his 62nd year introducing Stern students to the wonders of regression analysis and probability.
Born in Brooklyn in 1912, Kurnow received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math from New York City College in 1932 and 1933, respectively. In the depths of the depression, the best he could do was a job pushing a hand-truck in the garment center. But in 1935, he got a Works Progress Administration job teaching remedial reading and arithmetic. Five years later, he went to work as a statistician. He spent a year at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the military base in Maryland that was to be the locus of important war-time innovations in computing and the application of statistical quality control, and then joined the New York City Board of Education.
In 1945, Kurnow’s wife, Joyce, encouraged him to enroll at New York University to take more courses in statistics. And here, he found a home – and a calling. In 1948, he became a full-time instructor in statistics, and the rest is history. When he started, there were 10,000 students in the undergraduate school. The goal was to train students to take entry-level positions at companies. “The walls at the old graduate school at 90 Trinity Place were paper thin, and I remember overhearing a professor teaching an international trade course next door,” Kurnow recalls. “He was teaching graduate students how to fill out a bill of lading.”
Kurnow became chairman of the statistics department in 1963. “I asked Deming” – W. Edwards Deming, the NYU professor who pioneered total quality management – “if he wanted to be chair. But he said he was too busy.” Kurnow headed the department through 1975, a period in which Stern changed its curriculum and focused on building full-time, research-based MBA and PhD programs.
Many of his most prominent students have retired, among them former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (BS ’48, MA ’50, PhD ’77), “a very bright guy,” and former head of Toyota Motors Tatsuro Toyoda (MBA ’58). When NYU gave Toyoda an honorary degree in 2004, Kurnow, who had saved his grade sheets over the years, presented him with the original. “He was tickled pink.” But Kurnow continues to teach as an adjunct professor. “I finally took a semester off during the spring 2006 semester, and I’m going crazy,” he said.
A great deal has changed – inside and outside the classroom since Kurnow started teaching. The computer has replaced the slide rule, for example. But Kurnow still gets the same thrill from teaching. “I love to teach, I love the contact with the students, and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment.” Students evidently agree – Kurnow received the NYU Great Teacher Award in 1974. And, today, as Stern students rank their professors on a seven-point scale, the statistics expert proudly notes that his scores are consistently above six.
Daniel Gross is editor of Sternbusiness.