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Obituaries » Paul Calvin Shields

Paul Calvin Shields

November 10, 1933 - September 15, 2016


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Born November 10, 1933, in South Haven, Michigan – Died September 15, 2016, in Penngrove, California.

Paul was the youngest child of Lewis Wesley and Grace Green Shields.  He graduated from South Haven High School in 1952, where he was the yearbook editor, and played varsity tennis, basketball, baseball, and football (In football, he played end, guard, and tackle and liked to say this meant he was “end of the bench, guard of the water bucket and would tackle anyone who came near”)  As a local high school tennis player, he filled in the lowest brackets of the Junior National Tennis Championships in Kalamazoo one year, losing 6-0, 6-0 to a boy who lost 6-0, 6-0 to the eventual National Champion, and this accomplishment later afforded him a tennis scholarship at Colorado College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Cum Laude in Mathematics in 1956.

Paul completed his Ph.D. in Mathematics at Yale University in 1959, writing his dissertation on “The Theory of B* Pairs” under his advisor Charles Rickart. He had academic appointments at Boston University, MIT, Wayne State University 1963-1969, Willow Run Labs 1960-1962, University of Warwick (England) 1973-74, Stanford University, Hayward State University and San Jose State University, and at the Mathematics Institute (Matematikai Intézet) at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary.

Paul was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Toledo 1974-1999, where he retired.  He was a Fulbright Scholar in Hungary, 1985 and 1989, and also taught intermittently at the Mathematics Institute in Budapest.  He authored numerous publications, including three books: The Theory of Bernoulli Shifts (1973), Elementary Linear Algebra (1st edition 1968; 2nd edition 1973, 3rd edition 1980), Ergodic Theory of Discrete Sample Paths (1996).  He was consistently awarded with NSF (and other) research grants for Mathematics, and was proud, too, of several consecutive annual grants from the Ohio Arts Council to bring Hungarian musicians and dancers to the Toledoi Találkozó (Toledo Hungarian Folkdance Gathering) that he helped fund and organize in the late 1980s.

Paul traveled extensively to do collaborative work with his mathematician friends in England, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Hungary, Canada, and Brazil.  He liked that he was known affectionately as “the token goy” in his branch of mathematics and joking that he was known as “Mr. Counterexample” for “shredding” other people’s proofs and then working with them to come up with a much better one.  The only thing he did not like about teaching in Hungary for so many years was not being able to teach the freshman Calculus series at the University of Toledo of which he was so fond.  He traveled throughout Hungary and Romania, videotaping Hungarian folk dances for folklorists and archivists and collecting folk music and folk instruments.  Later, he was very active in getting the word out about the resistance to the Japanese internment camps, working with Chizu Omori during their marriage to help fund the DVD-version of her Emmy Award-winning documentary Rabbit in the Moon, helping schedule public viewings and library purchases of it throughout the U.S. and Japan, and working tirelessly to get internment camp survivors’ memoirs published and stories told before they died.

Paul had strong political beliefs and worked in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements as well as local politics, including as a member of Guild House at the University of Michigan during his time in Michigan, and running (albeit unsuccessfully) for School Board, in Highland Park, Michigan. He campaigned for the first election of US Rep John Conyers (D-Det), for Highland Park, Michigan, in 1965, and was proud to have helped deliver some of the few dozen votes that were the margin of victory.  While in California in the early 1970s, he was active with the group Technology and Society Committee (TASC).

Paul was married to Mary Getman 1952-1960; they had three children, Deborah Kay Shields, Elizabeth Marie Cozzo, Jeffrey David Shields.  He was married to Dorothy Huntwork 1962-1983, with three children, Sara Grace Shields, Ruth Barbara Shields, Andrew Jonathan Shields. He had a long term partner, Nancy Morrison, from 1983-1999. He was then married to Chizu Omori from 2000-2009.

Paul was preceded in death by his brother James Shields (1921-1993, Colorado) and sister Rachel Shields Scott (1925-2003, North Dakota/Minnesota).  He is survived by all of the above children as well as his older brother John Shields, MD (Traverse City, Michigan); sons-in-law Bob Feldman, Charles Schultz, and Bruce Fishbein; daughters-in-law Julie Shields and Andrea Delpho; grandchildren Jocelyn Cozzo, Alyssa Cozzo (Brad Martin), Alex Feldman (Aisling McIntyre), Jay Feldman (Anna Frishman), Jason Shields (Emily Shields), David Shields, Maggie Shields, Daniel Fishbein, Miles Delpho, Luisa Delpho, Sara Delpho; and great-grandson Damian Shields.

With a lifetime interest in working to reduce racism and promote educational equality, Paul was excited to start volunteering at the Algebra Project in Mississippi in 2005 when his first stroke led to loss of eyesight and progressive weakness and cognitive decline.  He nonetheless kept his capacity to pun badly (often eliciting laughing groans from his children) to nearly the end, and up to the end could still give glimpses of his droll humor with a crack, a brief joke, or a funny face.

With special thanks to Ebeth and Charles for their dedication to his needs since 2009 and to his caregivers in the last several years–Loveth (“Eki”) Ogbebor, Larry Temple, Rami Bungsut, Debra White, Peter Gill and his son Nathan, and extra gratitude to the staff at Penngrove Shangri-La–Ted Rico, Ruben Cabrera, Cora Bacani, Pong and Sol, who had such tender gentle ways to help Dad stay healthy and comfortable and appreciated his jokes.  Dad had some dark and stormy times in his life; with these caregivers’ help, his last years were happy and safe, and we will never forget that; you will all be part of our hearts as part of his family.

A private family memorial service is planned for the summer of 2017 in Massachusetts; for friends and family who wish to send memories to share at that time, please email  For those who might be interested in helping with a memorial service in California, please email  Given Paul’s interest in the Algebra Project and education, the family requests memorial donations to be made either to that organization or to the United Negro College Fund.  For the Algebra Project, online donations can be made with option to note dedication of gift at  or gifts by check can be sent to, The Algebra Project, Inc., 99 Bishop Richard Allen Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139); for the United Negro College Fund, donations can be made via their online site

“See you tomorrow, Dad”.