Charles A. (Chuck) Cable, a mathematics educator and Professor Emeritus from Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania, died on September 16, 2021 following a 24 year battle with prostate cancer. He was born on January 15, 1932 in Akeley, PA and is a son of Elton and Margaret (Fox) Cable. In 1955 he married Mabel E. Yeck.
Chuck graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 1954 with a BS Degree in mathematics and he began teaching high school mathematics and physics in Interlaken, New York in the fall of 1954. His teaching was interrupted in January of 1955 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served for two years at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. After being honorably discharged in January 1957, Chuck taught at Tidioute High School in Tidioute, PA. He enjoyed teaching mathematics there for 1½ years. At this point he needed to obtain more college credits to become a permanently certified teacher in the State of Pennsylvania. Normally the GI Bill would have provided the tuition for these credits but the GI Bill had ended in 1956 and was not reinstated until 1968. Scholarships were being offered by National Science Foundation (NSF) and also General Electric (GE) and he applied. Chuck was surprised when he received two telegrams announcing that he was awarded both the 1958 Summer GE Fellowship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a full year NSF at the University of North Carolina (UNC) starting in the fall of 1958. He earned a M.Ed. degree in mathematics from UNC in 1959 and then held a position as Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA from 1959 until 1967.
At the beginning of a long but important journey in his life he attended the NSF Summer Fellowship at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME in 1962. Upon returning to Juniata College in the fall of 1962 he continued to enjoy teaching full time while attending evening classes at Penn State University. He received another NSF Summer Fellowship in 1964 and while on sabbatical leave in 1965 he passed the written exams for the Ph.D. After receiving a one year NSF Faculty Fellowship in 1967 and a National Defense Act Fellowship in 1968 he graduated from Penn State University with a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1969. His Ph.D. dissertation was titled “The Decomposition of Certain Group Rings” and was written under the supervision of Dr. Raymond Ayoub. In 1969 Chuck was appointed as an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. He was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in 1975.
Shortly after starting at Allegheny College Chuck became chair of a young math department with the goal of making it one of the best in the college. He skillfully and successfully led the department for 20 years. He was especially proud of his efforts to institute a Math Department Speakers Series in 1972 which invited nationally known mathematicians to give a week-long series of talks at Allegheny College each Fall Term and Spring Term. These speakers also interacted with students in small group discussions and at mealtimes both on campus and at the Cable home. He also began an annual publication of Math News which was distributed to all Math Alumni of the College.
Chuck was held in high esteem by his colleagues on the faculty of Allegheny College. He was elected to serve five three year terms on Faculty Council. He served as Chair of the Science Division and a two year term as President of the local Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Dr. Cable was a member of the Mathematics Association of America (MAA) for sixty years at both the sectional and national level. He was Chairman of the Allegheny Mountain Section from 1973 to 1975. He instituted a session for undergraduate students to present research talks at the annual Allegheny Mountain Section Meeting. The Allegheny Section was the first section to have student sessions.
In 1982 Chuck was elected Governor of the Allegheny Mountain Section. The idea of instituting student chapters was strongly supported by Chuck and he worked hard to convince the other Governors of its value. The Student Chapter Program passed in 1984, the final year that he was a Governor. He served on the Committee for Student Chapters for the first six years of its existence. He is quoted in the February 2005 Focus saying, “When my initial efforts to form Student Chapters were unsuccessful, I was quite disappointed and I gave up. However, several months later Paul Halmos urged me to try again saying that sometimes it takes a while to get used to new ideas. I followed his suggestion and found that he was correct. The persistence eventually paid off.”
He took a sabbatical in 1986 spending a year at University of Colorado Denver where he joined a graph theory research group. He became involved in a project where he and his new colleagues introduced niche graphs, an extension of competition graphs which arose from the study of food webs. Fortuitously it was presented by a coauthor as part of a talk at a special workshop at the University of Minnesota on applications of graph theory to the biological and social sciences. As a result of this exposure and Chuck’s first paper in 1989, several mathematicians became interested in niche graphs and wrote a variety of papers. Working with various combinations of five coauthors, Chuck published seven papers on the topic from 1989 to 2001. A particularly nice paper was a complete characterization of niche graphs and mixed pair graphs of tournaments found by Chuck and his coauthors. Chuck retired in 1996, but he continued his graph theory research after the niche graph papers and published three papers on king sets and quasi-kernels from 2005 – 2012.
He was honored to serve as one of the first group of Associate Editors of the MAA’s Focus. His outstanding service to the Allegheny Mountain Section was recognized in 2003 with the Section Service Award. In January 2005 Chuck received a Meritorious Service Award in Mathematics from the MAA at a ceremony in Atlanta, GA for his service to the MAA at both the sectional and national levels.
Chuck enjoyed competing in various sports activities throughout his life. While he was a faculty member at Juniata College he played handball, basketball and tennis. During the years when he was a professor at Allegheny College he engaged in tennis, racket ball, sailing and downhill skiing. After he retired he continued downhill skiing, sailing and playing tennis. He was admired for his great sense of humor. Music played a very important part in his life. He played the trumpet for many years, sang in the Meadville, PA First Presbyterian Church Choir and in the barbershop chorus at the Green Mountain Presbyterian Church of Lakewood, CO.
In addition to his loving wife, Mabel, of 65 years, he is survived by two children, Christopher Cable and his wife Nancy of Dallas, TX and Carolyn Blinsmon and her husband Brad of Denver CO; three grandchildren Ryan Cable and his wife Isabel, Dr. Tracy Cable and her husband Barrett Davis, and Heather Blinsmon; one great grandchild David Cable. He is also survived by a twin brother Clair Cable and his wife Monchaya, who reside in Russell, PA and Bangkok, Thailand and a niece and three nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Charles and Mabel Cable Fund for Visiting Scholars and Speakers in support of the Department of Mathematics at Allegheny College, Institutional Advancement, 520 Main Street, Meadville, PA 16335.
This obituary was written by his wife, Mabel E. Cable and his colleague, Dr. Richard Lundgren, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado Denver
- News Release, The Mathematical Association of America, Washington, D.C., January 6, 2005, Five Mathematicians Honored with Meritorious Service Awards.
- Joint Mathematics Meetings, Atlanta, GA, January 5-8, 2005, Program Booklet, Certificates of Meritorious Service, p.27-28.
- MAA Focus, Vol.25, No.2, February 2005. Fernando Gouvea and Joe Gallian, Prizes and Awards at the Atlanta Joint Mathematics Meetings, Section Certificates of Meritorious Service, Charles Cable, p.14.
- MAA Focus, Vol.4, No.61/November-December 1984, Charles Cable, U.S. Students Rank Below Students from Other Countries in International Study, p.1.
- MAA Focus, Vol.36. No. 6, December 2015/January 2016, Kenneth A. Ross, Interview: Aperna Higgens, p. 19-20.
- Personal Communication