Bill was born in Indianapolis on November 1, 1937, in the depths of the Great Depression. He began school in the city of his birth, moved to Denver, Colorado in 1945, and Kensington, California, adjacent to Berkeley and El Cerrito, in 1950. In the summer of 1948, he contracted polio; he was not expected to live but beat the odds, though his breathing, coughing, and swallowing problems continued throughout his life. He graduated from El Cerrito High School in 1955, having served as the yearbook (El Camino or Cam) photographer and as a reporter for the school newspaper (El Caballero or Cabby). He always claimed Cabbys advisor, Walter E. Dodds, taught him how to write. He won a Craftsmanship Medal in the Second Annual San Francisco Bay Area Science Fair with a project demonstrating the additive effects of light – red, plus blue, plus green equals white! While in high school and during undergraduate studies in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, Bill worked at Norman Photo, a Berkeley institution owned by John Jack Jenkins, as veteran of WWII whose photos of life in China before and after the war decorated the stores walls. Bill emulated Jacks work, as well at those of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, in his photographs of California and Western landscapes.
After earning a masters degree in statistics as U.C.B., Bill joined the Management Systems Development Division (MSDD) at Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, NY, having declined a more lucrative job with a defense contract in order to follow his passion for photography. After two years at Kodak working with leaders in quantitative analytics such as Richard A. Freund and J.E. Ted Jackson, he realized the need for more advanced analytics techniques and returned to U.C. Berkeley for a his Ph.D. in statistics under Erich Lehmann. A paper based on his dissertation was published in the Annals of Mathematical Statistics as Concentration of Random Quotients, a hint of things to come.
Returning to Kodak, Bills assumed a leadership position first as Group Leader of the Mathematical Analysis Group and later as Supervisor of the Applied Mathematics Section; his team, including Mary Maggio, Dick Scott, Ed Sylvestre, and others, applied their mathematic and statistical skills to a variety of scientific and business problems, ranging from chemistry to marketing to medicine to management. They disseminated their work with talks and published articles on topics such as self-modeling curve resolution, analysis of chemical spectra, and rate of adoption of new products. Bills work expanded beyond Kodak, as he assumed editorship of Technometrics, a statistical journal focused on applications to chemistry, physics, and engineering.
For those who new Bill personally, though, the other passions of his life were equally important. His New Years parties with the player piano, multiple standing rib roasts, and projection TV with signals from the 10 foot diameter satellite receiver on the patio were legend, as were trips snowmobiling north of Toronto that, on occasion, saw his diesel Mercedes hauled in to a local garage to thaw the gelled diesel fuel. And, there was the Lake House, a 3000 square foot mega-A frame on sentinel overlooking Lake of the Isles on Wellesley Island in New Yorks Thousand Islands. The children neighbors and friends all called him Uncle Bill, and for them he was a pied piper with his videodiscs, array of boats (canoes, the Carter – or Queen Mary as our mother termed it – paddle boats, and the like.) He and Marge and Dick Potter ventured up the Rideau Canal from Kinston, Ontario on regular summer odysseys. He also found time then and later for high school reunions with friends like Barbara (Hermann) Hart and Warren Bird, trips with friends and family – his parents, (Emma and Burrell Lawton), the Freunds (Dick and Valerie), his brother Steve, and later colleague Ed Sylvester. Machu Picchu, the Nile and the Pyramids, London, the fjords of New Zealand, and Ayers Rock in Australia.
From his first day of work, Bill planned an early retirement, saving his Kodak bonuses. As a lifelong bachelor, he had no need funds for the education of college education of children, but he did not squander the money; he sequestered it in Kodaks Savings and Investment Plan, which for decades guaranteed an 8% compounded return. Play yes; but not without foresight.
His stint as Director of Market Research and Market Information for Triple-A – Asia, Africa, and Australia, may have been Bills happiest professional assignment, in that it combined his love of travel with is love of people. A bachelor who loves people may seem contradictory, but it was not. Instead, Bill made everyone he met part of his family. Though raised in a conservative household – his parents both Republicans from southern Indiana – there was nevertheless the inbred conviction that all persons were your equal so long as you treated them as such and they did the same. This conviction attracted a large circle of friends that he strove to maintain the rest of his life. With Triple–A, Bill was responsible for market research for Kodak in vast area including 92 nations and 2.6 billion people. The photos of groups of this period are kaleidoscopic. Innumerable mementos of this period document his experiences – a menu from Indonesia, the photo keychain form Lo Fung Restaurant, The Peak, Hong Kong, a picture of a the dinner in Japan (a photo recreated by his nephew, Jefferay, when he met with his Microchip associates in Japan 25 years later!)
Bill received many professional honors. He was also elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and of the American Society for Quality Control (now American Society for Quality). In 1970 and 1979 he received The Shewell Award from the Chemical Division of the ASQC based on the quality of his paper and presentation. In 1974, the same division awarded him The Frank Wilcoxon Prize for an outstanding Technometrics paper on practical application. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in May 1983 for the development of new statistical techniques for analysis of chemical and physical systems, and for contributions to scientific publishing. In 1995 the ASQ Statistics Division presented him the William G. Hunter award for his contribution to statistics education and integration of statistics with other disciplines. He also became a trustee of the Marketing Science Institute.
In 1985, after a year as Director of Strategic Information, Bill became Corporate Director of Business Research for the Eastman Kodak Company, serving on the companys Corporate Quality Advisory Council. This role included corporate business planning and research for all national and international divisions. Retiring from this position in 1990 after 27 years with Eastman Kodak, Bill was named professor of marketing at the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester. He also became a Senior Research Associate with Joiner Associates of Madison, Wisconsin, a firm focused on promoting quality improvement in both the public and private sectors.
In 1995, another demand beckoned Bill. Our widowed father, then 87, suffered a stroke and was no longer able to live alone. Leaving his professional career behind, he devoted himself to his fathers care, both at the Lake House and in a new home our father purchased in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. This purchase puzzled some, but as father explained, at my age, if you want to do something, youd better go ahead an do it. They and their neighbors, Bob and Helen Spires, hosted many visitors there, where Burrells RV Camp had room for three rigs – Dale Wormus (Dads cousin), the Balls, and the Bryces. After six years of cross-country trips in a Rialta mini-RV, during which they visited the Wormuses, Schillings, and Maines in Colorado, cousins Linda and Kaye in Indiana, and Lawtons and Weists in Florida, the trips became too much and Bill sold the Lake House and purchased a more modest home in Flagstaff, Arizona for their summer use. Bill was a member of the Elks Lodge #2399 in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
After a summers cruise to Alaska in 2011, Bill planned a trip to the Thousand Islands to enjoy the company of his friends and the incomparable scenery. While visiting Rochester, his friends noticed something amiss – a blank look, confused words. Admitted to Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester for diagnosis, he learned the terrible news: a brain tumor of an incurable type, similar to that that felled Ted Kennedy. He chose to return to a new home he had purchased in Phoenix near his brother, Steve, sister-in-law Ann, nephew Jefferay, and niece Sarah, and to be treated at the Barrows Neurological Institute at St. Josephs Hospital. At first, he maintained a normal life of concerts, plays, boating, and weekend lunches. But in March, 2012, he became unable to form new memories and slowly weakened. Yet, throughout it all, he remembered family and friends. He enjoyed visits from Gerry and Sophia Johnston from Australia from his Triple-A days, from Ed Sylvestre, and Carol Parker. He enjoyed phone calls from the Hernans and others – even though he might insist he was at the Lake House overlooking Lake of the Isles. What better place to be? With the natural beauty and the wonderful friendships of Dick and Chris Scott and the rest of the Scott clan, including the many children (and now grandchildren) who call him Uncle Bill.
SURVIVED BY: 1-brother: Dr. Stephen B. Lawton & his wife: Ann of Phoenix, AZ; 1-nephew: Jefferay Lawton; 1-niece: Sarah Lawton; 1-aunt: Vera Lawton of Jackson, NJ
PRECEDED IN DEATH BY: parents: Burrell C. & Emma Loretta (McCord) Lawton;
DATE, TIME & PLACE OF FUNERAL: 1:00 pm, Monday, July 16, 2012, Haskell & Morrison Funeral Home, 208 Ferry Street Vevay, Indiana
PLACE OF INTERMENT: Vevay Cemetery, Vevay, Indiana
DATE & TIME OF VISITATION: 12:00 pm-1:00 pm, Monday, July 16, 2012, at the Haskell & Morrison Funeral Home 208 Ferry Street Vevay, Indiana 47043
MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTIONS: Donations in Bills name to the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film or to the charity of donors choice, as well as flowers, are appreciated by the family.
ONLINE CONDOLENCES MAY BE SENT TO THE FAMILY VIA THE FUNERAL HOMES WEBSITE AT www.haskellandmorrison.com.