Obituary: Samuel L Greitzer (1905-1988)
For fifteen years, competitors and mathematicians interested in high-level
compteitions found it near-impossible to think of the prestigious USA Mathematical Olympiad
without having in mind Dr Samuel L Greitzer, founding chairman of the committee in charge of the USAMO.
Even the abbreviation USAMO centred on his name Sam, as his friends and admirers called him. Throughout
his tenure and for years afterwards (through the journal Arbelos, which he prepared more or less single-handedly).
Sam's concern with the mathematical well-being of highly talented students was similarly centralized. Only death could
terminate his devotion, on February 22, 1988, at age 82.
Sam Greitzer emigrated to the United States from Russia in 1906, graduated from the
City College of New York in 1927, and earned his PhD from Yeshiva University some years later. For
over 25 years he was teaching at the secondary level, and then at Yeshiva University, the Polytechnic Institute of
Brooklyn, Columbia University and Rutgers University. He published numerous pedagogical and
research articles as well as several books, of which Geometry Revisited (co-authored with Coxeter)
and International Mathematical Olympiads 1959-1977 are probably the best known in competition circles.
He was the leader of the US team to the International Mathematical Olympiads during the first ten years
of US participation, and took part in training the teams prior to the IMOs. He traveled extensively to help other
countries with their efforts also, and he was well known in Australia, in Europe and South America as well.
The initial impetus for starting the USAMO was due to Professor Emeritus Nura Turner,
whose intense work with the participants of this competition is still in progress. Sam fully recognized the
importance of the USAMO, and soon became its most ardent supporter.
His expectations from the students were high, his leadership of
the committee was firm, and his administration of the competition was flawless.
So it is far from co-incidental that SAM's name and guiding spirit will remain central to the USAMO as long as
this superb competion is in existence.
G Berzsenyi and W Mientka
This obituary was published in Mathematics Competitions, 1, 1, 1988.