Cottle, Richard W.

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In the first of two interviews with Kandis Scott, Richard W. “Dick” Cottle gives a brief account of his birth in Chicago and education in neighboring Oak Park, Illinois. He reflects on his undergraduate and graduate studies in mathematics: first at Harvard and then (after a two-year interlude of prep-school mathematics teaching) at the University of California, Berkeley where he had the good fortune of working at the Radiation Laboratory and the Operations Research Center with George Dantzig. Cottle relates how upon completion of his doctoral studies, he took a position at Bell Telephone Laboratories for two years, accepted a one-year visiting faculty position with Stanford’s Operations Research Program (OR), and became a member of the tenure-line faculty when the OR Program became the Department of Operations Research. He talks about his rise through the academic ranks, his collaboration with George Dantzig (who had left Berkeley and joined Stanford), the formation of the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Program, the anti-Viet Nam War turbulence, his receipt of the U.S. Senior Scientist Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and eventual chairmanship of the OR Department. He discusses the merger of the OR Department with the Engineering-Economic Systems Department and a second merger four years later with the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management. The second interview returns to the formation of the OR Department, its nature, its chairs, and the contemporaneous deans of the School of Engineering. Cottle recounts stories about his own chairmanship (which ended when the first of the two mergers occurred) and some of the challenges faced by the department. He also talks about events on campus, some of his closest friends on the Stanford faculty, and the effect that international recognition for his scholarly work had on his life at Stanford. He relates how he became involved with the writing of the book Stanford Street Names and other book projects. Responding to interviewer Kandis Scott’s questions, Cottle reflects on changes in the university, his sense of the most notable accomplishments of his career, and the challenges he faces going forward. The interview closes with comments on the influence of his family life.


Type of resource mixed material
Date created August 5, 2015 - August 14, 2015


Author Cottle, Richard W.
Contributing author Scott, Kandis
Publisher Stanford Historical Society


Subject Richard W. Cottle
Subject Stanford Historical Society
Subject oral histories
Subject interviews
Subject higher education
Subject professors
Subject operations research
Subject Linear Complementarity Problem

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The materials are open for research use and may be used freely for non-commercial purposes with an attribution. For commercial permission requests, please contact the Stanford University Archives (
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Richard W. Cottle (2015),
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program Interviews (SC0932). Department of Special
Collections & University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.
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Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2022

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