History of the Department

Illini Hall - Home of the Department of Statistics
Illini Hall - Home of the Department of Statistics

The Department of Statistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was established in 1985 with the approval of the Board of Trustees on April 18, 1985 and the Illinois Board of Higher Education on September 4, 1985. In its approval letter the Board of Trustees wrote:

The purpose of the Department of Statistics, now a division within the Department of Mathematics, is to provide a clear focus and visibility for statistics as a separate discipline. The need for this focus is recognized by most major academic institutions. With resources now in the Division of Statistics and those committed by the College, the Department would provide a more vigorous program by augmenting graduate enrollment in statistics and developing cross-disciplinary programs and research.

The original proposal from the Division of Statistics developed under the leadership of Jerome Sacks, Division Head and Founding Department Head, described the objectives of establishing a free-standing department as follows:

The chief motivation for creating a statistics department is to provide a focus and visibility for statistics as a discipline in order to further statistical research, to train statisticians to fill the serious shortages of qualified statisticians at all levels, and to promote statistical literacy in a general educational context. In order to reach these objectives a number of specific goals are to be met:

  1. Augmentation and widening of undergraduate offerings to bolster the undergraduate degree programs. Expansion of introductory courses at elementary levels to enhance the spread of statistical literacy.
  2. Increase in the availability of fundamental and specialized courses in applied and theoretical statistics at the graduate level for statistics majors and for other “user” departments.
  3. Expansion of statistical consulting services for researchers on the campus, for state agencies and for industry.
  4. Increase in the enrollment of graduate students in statistics.
  5. Development of cross-disciplinary programs and research.
  6. Expansion of the statistics faculty.

The drive toward accomplishing these goals encapsulates much of the subsequent development of the Department of Statistics, its programs, its research profile and its interactions with other programs, and its contributions to the campus, students and alumni. Furthermore, with the continued growth, indeed explosion, of data intensive research, analysis and decision making in all aspects of modern society, the need for research and education in Statistics is even stronger today than 30 years ago.


Founding faculty members of the new dept:

Adam Martinsek
Professor Adam Martinsek instructing students. Circa 2001

Robert Bohrer

Dennis Jennings

Kumar Joag-dev

John Marden

Adam Martinsek

Stephen Portnoy

William Stout

Jerome Sacks

Robert Wijsman

Stanley Wasserman (25%)


Joined in 1985-86

Andrew Barron

Dennis Cox

Douglas Simpson


Joined in 1986-87

Frank Knight (40%)

Ditlev Monrad

Walter Philipp



Department Chairs/Heads:

1985-1990 Jerome Sacks

1990-1995 Walter Philipp

1995-2000 Adam Martinsek

2000-2008 Douglas Simpson

2008-2009 Adam Martinsek (Acting)

2009- Douglas Simpson


Consulting Center Directors

Founded by Robert Bohrer

1985-1993 Rotating as a course assignment

1993-1995 John Marden

1995-2000 Douglas Simpson

2000-2003 Xuming He

2003-2010 Adam Martinsek

2010- Annie Qu


Some important developments since 1985 include:

  • Building a faculty strong in statistical theory, methodology and interdisciplinary research, with a tradition of excellence in teaching (32 teaching, research and affiliate faculty)
  • Tremendous expansion of the statistics curriculum and enrollments: over 5700 course enrollments.
  • Growth of the undergraduate Statistics majors from around 20 in 1985 to over 100 currently
  • Growth of the graduate program to approximately 180 MS and PhD students
  • Numerous joint appointments representing engineering, computer science, actuarial science, social sciences, psychology, economics, agricultural sciences, genomics and computational biology.
  • Research leadership in robust and semiparametric statistical methods, quantile regression methods, inference for high dimensional data, quantitative measurement and assessment and advanced methods for correlated longitudinal and spatial-temporal data
  • Extensive outreach, consulting and applied research through the Illinois Statistics Office
  • Outstanding alumni placements and achievements in academia, nonprofit and the private sector
  • Major LAS and Campus teaching awards: Ellen Fireman, John Marden, Adam Martinsek
  • IMS and ASA Fellows: Xuming He, Larry Hubert, Roger Koenker, John Marden, Adam Martinsek, Stephen Portnoy, Douglas Simpson, Bill Stout
  • AAAS Fellow: Xuming He
Illini Hall - University Photo Archives
Originally built in 1907 as the University YMCA, Illini Hall was once home to University of Illinois students and served as a dormitory for up to 88 students. In 1919, the building's first floor was used as the new Student Union, the precursor to the Illini Union, which was established in 1941. By the 1950's, the building that would be known as Illini Hall would be home of The Daily Illni, The Illio, a speech research program, and the Division of University Extensions. The History of Illini Hall continues to grow with the Department of Statistics.