A Brief History of the Ralph and Jean Storm Chair at the Baylor Mathematics Department

October 22, 2021
Storm Chair History - 00 - Ralph&JeanStorm Main Image

A Brief History of the Ralph and Jean Storm Chair at the Baylor Mathematics Department

The Beginnings

According to Susan Guyton (daughter of Jean and Ralph Storm) and Howard Rolf (longtime chair of the Baylor mathematics department from 1971–1997), Herbert H. Reynolds (Executive Vice President at Baylor from 1969–1981, Provost, and subsequently its 11th President from 1981–1995) approached the Storms with the idea of making a donation toward an endowed chair in the Baylor Mathematics Department in the early 1970s. Howard Rolf was eventually tasked with drawing up a proposal for an endowed chair. On April 27, 1974, Ralph and Jean Storm officially signed Howard Rolf’s document and made the donation that partly funded the establishment of a Chair in Mathematics. This official start of the Storm Chair was announced in the Baylor Report from May–June, 1974, see page 2. From speaking with senior members in the department, it is quite clear to them that Howard Rolf had a lot more to do with the creation of the Storm Chair than his modesty and understated demeanor permits him to admit.

By 1985 the Ralph and Jean Storm Chair was fully funded and Paul D. Hill (then at Auburn University) became the first Storm Chair holder for the period of 1985–1988. In 1990 the second Storm Chair holder, David M. Arnold (formerly at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces), started his tenure at Baylor and held the Storm Chair until his retirement in 2015.

Before providing a succinct summary of the work of Paul Hill and David Arnold, it is fitting to sketch a portrait of the benefactors of this endowment, Jean and Ralph Storm. Both were Baylor graduates and remained passionate Baylor supporters throughout their lives.

Newspaper clipping with headline 'Ralph and Jean Storm Endowed Chair in Mathematics Established'

Jean and Ralph Storm

Jean Morgan Storm (born 1928 in Fort Worth, TX, to parents DeWitt and Alice Kate Morgan, moved 1941 to Corpus Christi, TX, died 2003) graduated from Baylor with a B.A. in Psychology in 1949. Her mother and grandmother were also Baylor alumnae. She and Ralph married November 26, 1949, and made their home in Corpus Christi where they were blessed with daughters Kathy (who holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education from Baylor) and Susan (who holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mathematics from Baylor), see below and page 5. Jean dedicated her life to family, friends, First Baptist Church, and Baylor University. She will always be remembered for her 28 years of ministry to the sick and homebound of First Baptist Church, visiting them regularly, delivering flowers, cookies, and providing sunshine throughout the week, see page 4. Her ministry continues to this day, as a committee of volunteers now does what Jean did with Ralph’s assistance all those years. Her larger family included members of a married couples Sunday school class with whom she served and ministered throughout her adult life. She was an avid Baylor football and basketball fan, hardly missing a home game. She was also a longtime member and president of The 21 Study Club.

Kathy Sley and Susan Guyton, 2007
Kathy Sley and Susan Guyton, 2007
News Story about Jean Storm's service, including to those hospitalized and homebound.

Ralph Carroll Storm (born 1928 in Claude, TX, to parents Wash and Virginia Storm, moved 1930 to a farm near Premont, TX, died 2015) graduated from Baylor with a B.A. in Business in 1949. He met the love of his life, Jean Morgan, at Baylor and married her shortly after graduation. In 1959 Ralph founded the highly successful Storm Drilling Company and perfected slant drilling to draw oil from the Gulf. He sold his company shares in 1968, but remained active in the oil business through the Storm–Prichard Company and in banking as a director of Frost Bank. For the following decades, Ralph primarily focused on his family, his church, and Baylor University. He was deeply involved in religious and community activities, serving as a teacher for his Sunday school class, chair of the deacons, chair of the Fiscal Committee, a member of the Board of Directors of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, president of the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and chair of the Palmer Drug Abuse Program. His main hobby was woodworking, much to the delight of family and friends. He loved flying and even built a Kitfox aircraft in his garage. For years, Ralph and Jean flew a Beechcraft Baron to Waco over weekends to visit their daughters and to attend Baylor home games. Ralph served as Baylor University trustee/regent for 27 years between 1970 and 2000, he received Baylor’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1978, the Herbert H. Reynolds Service Award in 1985, and the W. R. White Meritorious Service Award in 2000.

Together Jean and Ralph especially enjoyed shepherding, and often financially backing, young people attending the university they loved. They both enjoyed recruiting worthy students for Baylor. The tributes by Cleo LaRue (Distinguished Baylor Alumnus, professor and chair at Princeton University), Keith Jones, Charles and Virginia Beth Moore, and Steve Swinney (see pages 7–10), are a vivid testament in this connection. Jean and Ralph were charter members of the Endowed Scholarship Society, Old Main Society, lifetime members of the Baylor Alumni Association, and recipients of the Huckins and Pat Neff Medallions. In 2007 President John M. Lilley presented Ralph and Jean (the latter posthumously) with the Founders Medal, one of Baylor’s most prestigious awards, in recognition of their service and commitment to the University over the years. Established in 1969, the Founders Medal honors men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of the University. “As loyal alumni of Baylor University, the Storms were deeply spirited and exuded Baylor ideals in a way that ignited a love of the University in those around them,” Lilley said. “Although Baylor has produced countless servant-leaders since her founding, it is difficult to find two individuals who have embraced the Baylor mission more fervently than Ralph and Jean.”

Kathy Sley, Ralph Storm, Susan and John Guyton, 2007
Kathy Sley, Ralph Storm, Susan and John Guyton, 2007

Susan Guyton indicated to us that she thinks that her parents felt that creating the Storm Chair in 1974 (see below for a fun picture of them from around that time) was one of their most significant and lasting contributions to Baylor. The Baylor Mathematics Department will be eternally grateful and remains deeply honored by their extraordinary generosity.

Ralph and Jean Storm - 1974

The Baylor Line Cover Spring 2015 Magazine Cover

The Baylor Line 'Remembering Ralph' Story, Page 1

The Baylor Line 'Remembering Ralph' Story, Page 2

The Baylor Line 'Remembering Ralph' Story, Page 3

The Storm Chair Holders

The first Storm Chair holder, Paul D. Hill, received his Ph.D. degree from Auburn University in 1960 under the supervision of Richard William Ball. He was at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, 1960–1961, at the University of Houston from 1965–1968, then at Auburn University until becoming Professor Emeritus in 2000, and was Department Head at Western Kentucky University, 2002–2005.

Throughout his long carrier, Paul Hill was a world leader in the theory of abelian p-groups. He became well known because he was able to settle a long standing question: Simply presented abelian p-groups are characterized, up to isomorphism, by their Ulm invariants. This triggered a whole industry on similar results for decades.

During his tenure as Storm Chair at Baylor from 1985–1988, Paul Hill extended the scope of his research to torsion-free abelian groups, especially infinite rank Butler groups, which attracted a lot of attention at that time. In particular, he co-authored several papers with C. Megibben, one of his former students.

MathSciNet lists 126 publications; he had 4 Ph.D. students.

The second Storm Chair holder, David M. Arnold (born August 9, 1939 in Falls City, NE, died January 3, 2021, Waco, TX), earned his B.A. in mathematics from Wichita State University in 1962 and his M.A. in mathematics from Western Washington State University in 1965. That year he began his Ph.D. studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he completed his Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Joseph Rotman in 1969.

David Arnold began his professional mathematical career as a post-doctoral Research Associate at New Mexico State University in 1968. Subsequently, NMSU hired him as an Assistant Professor in 1969, he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1974, and earned Full Professorship at NMSU in 1980. In 1990, under the leadership of Chair Howard Rolf, Baylor University hired David Arnold as the Ralph and Jean Storm Chair of Mathematics, a position he held until his retirement in 2015, when he was named Professor Emeritus of Mathematics.

He was instrumental in helping to build the mathematics program at Baylor University. In particular, he was a first-class researcher with natural leadership skills that were highly influential in changing the department’s focus on teaching to that on teaching and research. As such, he played a key role in securing the Ph.D. program by undertaking the task of writing the proposal which was presented to the Regents in 2000.

David Arnold standing at chalkboard
David Arnold, approximately, 2007

He was widely known for his research in torsion-free abelian groups of finite rank and related subjects, such as representation of finite partially ordered sets, modules over discrete valuation rings, subrings of algebraic number fields, and finitely generated modules over pullback rings. MathSciNet lists 83 publications including two books on the subject. He supervised five Ph.D. students and a countless number of undergraduate theses and projects.

His first book, Finite Rank Torsion-Free Abelian Groups and Rings, Lecture Notes in Mathematics, Vol. 931, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1982, is a “tour de force” and still considered the main source in the field.

His paper, Global Azumaya theorems in additive categories, jointly with R. Hunter and F. Richman, J. Pure Appl. Algebra 16, No. 3, 223–242 (1980), was part of the sequence of papers leading to the classification of Warfield groups which, at the time, was considered one of the most important advances in the general classification theory of finite groups.

Beginning with what became known as “Arnold duality” in the early 1970’s, he made a series of fundamental contributions that changed the face of torsion-free theory.

He was a devoted and dedicated teacher who enjoyed teaching a wide variety of mathematics courses. His classes were popular and students were drawn to him. He strongly encouraged excellence in teaching and research and set an example for high standards in the department.

The third and current Storm Chair holder, Fritz Gesztesy (formerly at the University of Missouri, Columbia, 1988–2016), joined Baylor in 2016. For more information, see https://www.baylor.edu/math/index.php?id=935340


We are indebted to Betty Arnold, Manfred Dugas, Susan Guyton, Lance Littlejohn, Frank Mathis, Ella Wall Prichard, and Howard Rolf for invaluable help in trying to retrace the origins and the first thirty years of this endowed chair.

Compiled by Fritz Gesztesy

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