Slavy Bilchev, in 2008 at ICME-11, Monterrey, Mexico.
Svetoslav (Slavy) Jordanov Bilchev
Born Rouse 30 September 1946
Died Rouse 24 March 2010
When the first International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) was organized in Romania in 1959 there was a student from Rouse
region (Todor Penev Todorov) in the Bulgarian team. In the years to come, among authorities and citizens in Rouse,
this fact sparked a considerable interest toward mathematics and mathematics education. A short announcement inviting
school students to a “math circle” and “problem solving” , posted at a few places in the town, gathered over 800
(instead of the expected tens) in the backyard of the Evening Gymnasium.
This was the beginning of the famous
Rouse Students’ Mathematical Circle (RSMC) guided by Docho Todorov Dochev. Slavy Bilchev was one of its most active
participants. The creative atmosphere and the desire to learn how to solve difficult mathematical problems produced
very interesting and stimulating results. Soon the Bulgarian Mathematical Olympiad was heavily dominated by winners
from Rouse. Year after year school students from Rouse made their (not easy!) way to the Bulgarian Team for IMO.
In 1964, 1968, 1969 and 1988 there were actually three Rouse students in each of the teams. Slavy Bilchev was a part
of this success and contributed to it not only by helping others. He participated in IMO in Wroczlaw, Poland, 1963,
and in Moscow, USSR, 1964. Both times he returned home with bronze medal. His rapid advancement encouraged other students
from Rouse and motivated them to work hard.
On the basis of his successful participation in IMO Slavy Bilchev was
given a state stipend to study at the famous Mechanics-Mathematics Department (better known as “Mech-Math”) of the
Moscow State University. He graduated from that institution in 1969 and immediately entered the staff of Rouse University
where he worked till his death on March 24th, 2010. Slavy Bilchev earned his PhD in 1975 . In 1979 he became
Associate Professor. Less than a week after his death he was elected a Full Professor in a finalization of a procedure
that had started a year earlier. Over the years he occupied different positions related to the administration of
research and education in his university: Chairman of Department, Vice Director and Director of the Center of
Mathematics, Dean of the Pedagogical Faculty (1994 - 2003) and Chairman of the Department of Algebra
and Geometry ( 2004 – 2010).
Slavy Bilchev’s major research topics included (but were not limited to) Geometry, Ordinary and Partial Differential
Equations, Differential Games, Mathematical Modeling in Economics, Mathematics Education, Mathematical Competitions
and Olympiads. His results were published in more than 130 articles and 10 books. Unlike many others who profited
enormously from the Bulgarian system for identification and support of mathematical talent and never returned “to
pay back the debt” afterwards, Slavy Bilchev was a passionate supporter and promoter of the work with students of
higher mathematical abilities during all his life. At least 25 of the school students from Rouse and Rouse region
who took part in IMO participated in the regular class and beyond-class activities provided by him. Many of his
former school students are now PhD holders, Associate Professors and Full Professors of Mathematics and/or
Informatics in Bulgaria, USA, Canada, England, France.
As a lecturer at the university he also enjoyed highest appreciation on the side of students. Here is what an
anonymous former student of him wrote in an Internet Forum immediately after learning about his death:
I know it's weird. I do not know where to start from. He is, perhaps, one of the most prominent citizens
of Rouse. At least in my opinion. I did not have too many touching points with him. During my first year at the
university he was lecturing math. He was a great guy and a lecturer. Unique as a person. He irradiated sincere
bonhomie and cordiality. Something that I had rarely seen before…. I will never forget how we shook hands after
the exam. ... It is strange how a man you had only a few contacts with could leave such deep impressions on you.
But he did. Can not explain exactly why... The coolest teacher in this university. ... Rest in peace, Prof. Bilchev!
Slavy Bilchev had great communication skills. He easily established fruitful contacts, liked to travel and to
participate in conferences, developed numerous friendships all over the world. These abilities made him a desired
partner in an impressive number of projects financed by the European Union. Meetings and discussions with
colleagues were an essential part of his life. Yet, not too many knew that he was a lyrical poet as well
(one of the 10 books mentioned above is a love poetry). He was a loving father, esteemed colleague and an
honest and helpful friend. It was a pleasure to be around him. His smile rarely left his face. He was always
ready to tell an encouraging story or a joke fitted well to the discussed topic. He kept his good mood
and intensive life style even after the severe heart operation he had several years ago and despite the cancer
he was fighting with till his last days…
Professor Slavy Bilchev was survived by his wife Ginka Bilcheva, daughter Marina and grand-daughter Anastasia.
Petar S. Kenderov
August 2010, Sofia,
Here is Slavy in his home town of Rouse in 2003.
Slavy with friends and colleagues at the WFNMC conference in 1998 at Zhong Shan. On excursion, below the
Pearl River Bridge, China, from
left Peter Taylor (Australia), Petar Kenderov (Bulgaria), Slavy, Alexander Soifer (USA) and Nikolay Konstantinov (Russia).