A Longtime Staff Member, She Made Provisions for a Fund for Graduate
by Marie Felde
Two of the joys in Sarah Hallam's life were running the mathematics department and traveling the world.
So when she retired in 1978 after 40 years, her mathematics colleagues gave her a trip of her choice any where in the world as a goodbye present. (She chose a journey on the Trans-Siberian express to Moscow.)
When the 85-year-old Hallam passed away in December, she repaid the favor with equal affection by leaving a portion of her estate to help fund an endowment for mathematics graduate student fellowships that she had begun in 1989.
Hallam was born in Macon, Ga., in 1910 and grew up in Portland, Ore. She came to Berkeley to complete her mathematics studies and received her MA in 1938.
She had been working in the mathematics department as a student and when she graduated, Griffith Evans, then head of the department, asked her to be his assistant. She became the first and at the time, the only career staff person in the department. When she left, the department had grown to 75 faculty and 110 teaching and research assistants.
"I don't think she wanted to be a research mathematician. She was very happy in her job. She enjoyed working with the faculty, many of whom were her friends," said Leon Henkin, former chair.
"A group of faculty people and Sarah got together for an interesting project--we decided to collectively be foster parents," he recalled. Over the years, the group sponsored children from a Greek island, Ecuador and Africa.
When she retired, Hallam was one of the longest serving non-tenured employees in Berkeley's history, said math staffer Lou Maull, who interviewed Hallam last year for the Mathematics Newsletter.
"She was really well known on campus. She was here so long, knew so many people and was involved in a lot of projects on campus," said Maull. Hallam was chair of the parking appeals committee for several years and served on the personnel advisory committee, among many others.
Carolyn Katz, who is the department's MSO now, said Hallam was also known beyond the Berkeley campus. Katz said she was recently introduced by a long-time faculty member to a Stanford colleague with, "This is the Sarah Hallam of the department."
Katz and Maull, who met Hallam when she returned to the department for events, enjoyed learning how things were done in the early days.
"The bureaucracy was so different," said Katz.
"There were no PAFs, no purchase orders. Sarah said the chair would just go over to California Hall where the needed item was entered into a book kept at the reception desk" and it would be ordered, added Maull.
Times have changed, but Hallam's dedication to the mathematics department and her high regard for its students continues. A handful of students have already benefited from the Sarah Hallam Fellowship Fund in Mathematics.