Dr. Hamburg, Wharton

Morris Hamburg, an emeritus professor of statistics and operations research at the Wharton School, died November 14, 2011, of natural causes at the age of 89.

Dr. Hamburg and his three brothers Nathan, Sidney and Charles, grew up in a tiny row house in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia. His immigrant parents, who met while working next to one another in a sweatshop at age 16, did not even have a high school education. Dr. Hamburg went to Gratz High School and had no hope of higher education until he took a citywide test and scored number one in Philadelphia, which awarded him a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He commuted to Penn on three trolley lines and worked at night shoveling coal to pay for his books and expenses, earning his undergraduate degree in 1943.

Dr. Hamburg earned his PhD at Penn in 1952 under Economics Nobel Laureate, Professor Simon Kuznets. At the Wharton School, where he served as a faculty member since 1946, Dr. Hamburg's principal fields of research were: managerial decision analysis; forecasting and planning; economics; securities markets; and industrial basic and applied research. He also directed studies centered on both urban economic planning and the development of managerial information systems for universities and large public libraries. His extensive publications included two major statistics textbooks as well as hundreds of monographs and articles in professional journals. He also served as consultant and advisor to corporations, governmental agencies, non-profit foundations and universities.

Dr. Hamburg was an enthusiastic and energetic teacher, whose lectures were enlivened by his sense of humor and wry wit. He jocularly referred to the lecture system as "the mysterious process by which the notes of the professor are transferred to the notes of the student without passing through the minds of either."

His many teaching commendations included a 1959 special award for distinguished teaching granted to 20 Penn professors, he received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1983, and numerous awards for teaching excellence in Wharton’s MBA program. His other awards included a commendation from the US Secretary of Energy for his service as both chairman and member of an advisory committee to the US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, 1981-1986.

Several generations of his students, many of whom had become professors themselves, stayed in touch with him until his death. In an interview with Dr. Hamburg that appeared in the Daily Pennsylvanian, five years before his 1992 retirement, he said: "I've enjoyed my entire academic life. I've always looked at it as a way of making a life as well as a way of making a living. One of the best rewards of academia has been the psychic income that I derived from my contacts with former students."

He participated in Wharton's executive education program as a faculty director, lecturer, and coordinator of seminars and courses in the US, Europe and Asia, and served as a visiting professor at Harvard's School of Business Administration. He was a member of numerous professional societies, was an elected Fellow of both the International Statistical Institute and the American Statistical Association, and was an editor of the latter Association's scholarly journal, 1956-1972.

During World War II, he was a First Lieutenant serving as a meteorologist who advised the US Army Air Force in the Asia-Pacific Theater when the weather favored bombing runs and invasions and was awarded a bronze star during his service in China. After the war, he was stationed briefly in Occupied Japan as a communications officer at the Tokyo radio station from which Tokyo Rose made propaganda broadcasts during the war. He retained a fascination with Asia throughout the rest of his life, returning to both China and Japan numerous times, often in connection with University of Pennsylvania programs.

After his retirement, Dr. Hamburg continued to teach at Penn in a masters degree program for executives, coauthored a number of articles that appeared in professional journals, and served on the Executive Committee of the Penn Association of Senior and Emeritus Faculty (PASEF), becoming its president during the 2006-2007 academic year.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jean Hamburg; a son, Neil, W'77, L'80, formerly of OGC, and his wife Shelli Alford; a daughter, Bobbie Weisbein, C'79, and her husband Paul; and two grandchildren, Winston and Grace Alford-Hamburg.

In accordance with his wishes, there will be no funeral. Contributions can be made to the University of Pennsylvania in his memory.