Esther Portnoy directed the actuarial science program from 1986 until her retirement in 2004. Although her 1969 PhD thesis was in differential geometry, in the mid 1970s Ken Appel encouraged her to pursue a professional actuarial credential, with the aim of establishing a formal program. She became a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in 1984. Enrollment in the program increased significantly during her tenure, and students were prepared to take exams beyond the basic ones. Esther was also successful in pursuing donations from the insurance industry, providing support both for students and for the program as a whole. A significant contribution from State Farm in 2003 established a named position in actuarial science to recruit prominent faculty to the Illinois Department of Mathematics.
The Esther Portnoy Actuarial Science Scholarship, established in 2021, is awarded to graduate students with a minimum GPA of 3.5 and who have demonstrated leadership and strong communication skills. Underrepresented minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.
2022-23 Changyue Hu
2021-22 Jiamin Shi