Stewart Anderson retires from University of Pittsburgh

October 12 2021

Stewart (Stew) J. Anderson, MA, PhD, Senior Statistician for NRG Oncology, former Associate Director in the Pittsburgh office of the SDMC, Director of Statistics Division, and Professor of Biostatistics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, has decided to retire from his major academic and clinical trials collaborative research positions. Stew plans to remain active in mentoring and scientific pursuits of interest to him, drawing on his many years of research in statistical methods and oncology.

Stew attended University of Colorado and University of Kansas to receive his BA and MA in mathematics and returned to University of Colorado for a doctorate in Biometry. After starting his career at Ciba-Geigy, he joined the Department of Biostatistics at University of Pittsburgh and the NSABP in 1989. He formed a strong bond with Dr. Bernard Fisher and they worked closely on a large body of important original articles and thoughtful commentaries. Stew also enjoyed close collaborations with numerous NRG investigators including Norman Wolmark, Harry Bear, Sandy Paterson, Priya Rastogi, Terry Mamounas, Irene Wapnir, and others. He also created many opportunities for methodology development from his work in NSABP and NRG Oncology, leading and collaborating on methods projects in sample size determination, interim trial monitoring, survival modeling, longitudinal data analysis, among other areas. He even revisited his broader mathematics interest recently with a paper on breast cancer tumor growth modeled via differential equations. It should also be noted that Stew has made substantial collaborations in psychiatry research and coauthored a large body of important papers in that discipline. He currently serves as statistical editor for JAMA Psychiatry.

What may be less well known to the NRG community is the enormous amount of mentoring and classroom teaching that Stew provided over his three decades at the University of Pittsburgh. He advised 24 doctoral candidates and a near equal number receiving master’s degrees under his guidance. Stew additionally served on numerous (we would say innumerable but Stew the mathematician would dispute that) degree-conferring committees across many disciplines in the School of Public Health and in other departments at Pitt. He taught courses nearly every term of his appointment, with topics ranging from fundamental methods to advanced general and special areas in statistics. From his many years of teaching intermediate level biostatistics, Stew authored a book framed around computing aspects of the methods, which lends important insights for students and practitioners. His service on many school-wide governing and program evaluation bodies further demonstrate his commitment to education as a fundamental pillar of the university mission that stands equal with outstanding research.

Norman Wolmark, a Group Chair of NRG Oncology and the Chairman of the NSABP Foundation, reflected on his longstanding collaborative relationship with Dr. Anderson as follows: “Stewart Anderson was the arch-typical curmudgeon. And yet, intertwined with his occasionally churlish demeanor was a well evolved aversion to hypocrisy and superficiality. Although these traits could be exasperating, they were tempered by the fact that Stewart was also imbued with a selfless generosity, a commitment to principle and an unyielding dedication to truth. His acerbic jibes were delivered with just a hint of self-effacing humor and an exhortation that we were capable of providing a better product. In short, the characteristics that define Stewart Anderson are becoming extinct. How very much I will miss working with him.”

James Dignam, Group Statistician for NRG Oncology, while searching for his thesaurus added, “agree”, and later elaborated “Stew applies rigorous thinking to all that he pursues, and in his collaborations invested the time to deeply understand the subject matter so as to add unique insights. His tireless dedication to teaching and mentoring over his whole career is truly remarkable, with so many grateful former students, including myself”.

Aside from his scholarly work in biostatistics, Stewart is an avid reader of fiction and of nonfiction across a broad range of subjects, especially history. Stew grew up in the mountains of Colorado and developed a lifelong love for hiking, having summited at least six of the 14,000-foot peaks in the Colorado Rockies. Running, biking, and skiing count among his other outdoor activities. In recent years, Stew has managed to be on 4 continents, either visiting his children, attending conferences, or just traveling for fun with his wife Deb.

We congratulate Stewart on all his achievements and thank him for his dedication to cancer research and the group. We wish him the best as he pursues his research interests left undone as well as takes more time for family and fun. We look forward to still seeing you around, Stew!

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