Statistician He installed as Kotzubei-Beckmann Distinguished Professor

Xuming He at his installation
Xuming He was installed as the Kotzubei-Beckmann Distinguished Professor. (Photo: Rebecca K. Clark/Washington University)

Xuming He, chair of the Department of Statistics and Data Science in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, was installed as the inaugural Kotzubei-Beckmann Distinguished Professor during a ceremony held April 25 at the Whittemore House. 

The program included a welcome and introduction by Feng Sheng Hu, the Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences and the Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor; remarks by honoree Deborah Beckmann and McKelvey School of Engineering Dean Aaron Bobick; and a medallion presentation by Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.

He’s endowed position was made possible by Beckmann, AB ’91, and her husband, Jacob Kotzubei. The couple chose to endow a distinguished professorship in Arts & Sciences because of the positive impact Washington University has had on Beckmann’s life.

“I’m deeply grateful to Deborah and Jacob for their generosity and foresight,” Martin said. “Endowed positions such as theirs ensure that future generations of WashU students will have the same opportunity to learn from and be mentored by the very best faculty.

“Professor He is quite simply one of the most influential scholars in the field of statistics,” Martin said. “His groundbreaking theoretical and methodological contributions have reshaped the discipline and expanded its reach across numerous other fields.”

Xuming He
He (center), pictured with his wife, Jiemin Zhang, and son, Jason He, was installed as the Kotzubei-Beckmann Distinguished Professor on April 25. (Photo : Rebecca K. Clark/Washington University)

He joined Washington University in July 2023. Previously, he served as the H.C. Carver Collegiate Professor of Statistics at the University of Michigan.

He is a renowned leader in the fields of robust statistics, quantile regression, Bayesian inference and post-selection inference. He is also a proponent of interdisciplinary research in data science. Before joining the University of Michigan in 2011, He held positions at the National University of Singapore and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and served as program director of statistics at the National Science Foundation.

In his remarks, He discussed his professional journey from a student at Fudan University in China to his new position at WashU. Along the way, he developed a passion for robust statistics, a subfield of statistics that aims to understand and address the impact from any discrepancy between statistical models and real-world data. “Robust statistics help us understand what will happen when models aren’t exactly right,” He said.

While He has been fortunate to run across interesting research problems, he’s most grateful for his mentors, students and collaborators. “Their warm hearts have shaped my life,” He said. “When you have good data and work with good people, a lot of fun will come out of it.”

The new department that He leads launched in July 2023. Born out of the Arts & Sciences strategic plan, the Department of Statistics and Data Science furthers the universitywide vision of innovative digital transformation and involves close collaboration with the McKelvey School of Engineering and other WashU schools. He and his colleagues will tackle some of the most complex and pressing issues in science and society, including artificial intelligence, climate change, sustainability and public health.

“In just 10 months at WashU, Xuming has done a tremendous job of laying the groundwork for the new department,” Dean Hu said during the ceremony. Through his work building strategic connections across campus and recruiting talented new faculty, “Xuming’s department is already positioning WashU to be a data science powerhouse.”

He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. He has been honored as a Medallion Lecturer and keynote speaker at the 2007 Joint Statistical Meetings. He delivered the International Association for Statistical Computing’s President’s Lecture at the 62nd World Statistics Congress in 2019.

He received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Chinese Statistical Association in 2015, the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award from the University of Michigan and a Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in 2021. In addition, he was awarded the Carver Medal from the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in 2022 and the Founders Award from the American Statistical Association in 2021, in recognition for his decades-long leadership in the profession.

He currently serves as president of the International Statistical Institute, the only nongovernment global statistical organization with consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

(From left) Andrew D. Martin, Jacob Kotzubei, Xuming He, Deborah Beckmann, Benjamin Kotzubei and Feng Sheng Hu pose for a photo at He’s installation ceremony April 25. (Photo: Rebecca K. Clark/Washington University)

About Deborah Beckmann and Jacob Kotzubei

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from WashU in 1991, Deborah Beckmann earned a law degree from Columbia University.

Jacob Kotzubei, also a 1994 Columbia Law School graduate, clerked for Senior Judge James L. Latchum of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, while Beckmann clerked for Chancellor William T. Allen of the Delaware Court of Chancery. They both joined the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell in 1995.

Kotzubei is now co-president of Platinum Equity and a member of the firm’s investment committee. He has had more than 25 years of mergers and acquisitions experience in numerous industries and countries.

Beckmann is a member of WashU’s Arts & Sciences National Council and a special member of the Art on Campus committee.

Beckmann and Kotzubei have two children, Benjamin and Natasha. Benjamin earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in 2022, majoring in philosophy with minors in writing and political science in Arts & Sciences.

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