Remembering Robb Fry

Dr Robb Fry, one of my professors from my Thompson Rivers University days, passed away earlier this year at far too young an age. Robb was a real character, a great teacher, and a lot of fun to know.

I took my second course in linear algebra with Robb, and it was one of the most entertaining courses of my first two years. While visiting my parents over the holidays, I dug out my course notes — the only full set of notes I ever took in undergrad — so I could share some memorable episodes from my time with him.

Introducing the notation “∃!”

It means “there exists a unique…” but I always read it like it’s a William Shatner thing. THERE EXISTS!

On terminology

ROBB: An oval…

CLASS: Don’t you mean an ellipse?

ROBB: Yeah, whatever the real term for that is.

On yellow chalk

I’m going to avoid yellow chalk today, because I have a suspicion that one day they’ll find that the stuff that makes it yellow is toxic. That’s going to be someone’s Ph.D. thesis one day, The Toxic Effects of Yellow Chalk, and I don’t want to be part of the study group.

On the kernel (which gets “killed” by a map)

The best bumper sticker I’ve ever seen had a picture of the colonel from KFC with “I am dead.”

On writing

If you’re ever reading a paper, and they say they have to prove a technical lemma, brace yourself for some horrific math.

On stable/invariant sets

I use “invariant” instead of “stable.” A stable set sounds like something for horses. I like horses, mind you, but they shouldn’t be confused with mathematics.

You taught me, inspired me, and motivated me to continue on the path to becoming a mathematician. But more importantly, it was a lot of fun to know you. Thanks, Robb.