Obituary: W.E. 'Gene' Deskins / Math professor cultivated students and garden

Feb. 20, 1927 - July 30, 2012

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W.E. "Gene" Deskins, a professor and mathematician who was chairman of the math department at the University of Pittsburgh during the 1970s and 1980s, enjoyed being in the classroom.

"He loved to teach. He loved finding students who really enjoy math," said his daughter, Samantha E. Deskins of Austin, Texas.

Mr. Deskins died Monday in his Point Breeze home. He was 85 and had been suffering from dementia.

He was a native of Morgantown, W.Va., and received a bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His area of research was in classic group theory, a branch of modern algebra, said Charles Cullen, an associate professor emeritus at Pitt and a department colleague of Mr. Deskins.

Mr. Deskins was a frequently published scholar and a lecturer and invited speaker at various academic gatherings in this country and abroad.

Beginning in the early 1950s, he taught at Wisconsin and later at Ohio State and Michigan State universities. By then, he had developed an affinity for Pittsburgh, He traveled a number of times from Columbus, Ohio, to attend Pittsburgh symphony performances and eventually made this city his home, his daughter said.

In 1971, Mr. Deskins came to Pitt as a professor and chairman of the mathematics department. After stepping down from the chairmanship in 1987, he became associate dean of what was then called Pitt's college of arts and sciences, a position he held until retiring from Pitt in 1995 as a professor emeritus.

"He did a great deal to strengthen the research abilities of the mathematics department," Mr. Cullen recalled.

Mr. Deskins' wife of 44 years, Barbara Deskins, who was an associate professor at Pitt, a registered dietician, an author and freelance columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, died in 1997 at age 67.

She loved to cook, her daughter recalled, so it was a good match that her father was an avid gardener, transforming much of their yard to grow vegetables and herbs.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Deskins is survived by another daughter, Lucinda E. Deskins of State College; a sister, Jacqueline Adams of Lumberton, Texas; and a grandson.

The funeral is private and no visitation is planned. Arrangements are being handled by John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc. in Shadyside. Memorial contributions may be made to the World Wildlife Fund, P.O. Box 97180, Washington, D.C. 20090 or


The Post-Gazette's comprehensive report of recent deaths includes three types of obituaries. News obituaries, prepared by our staff, are published at the discretion of our editors. Classified obituaries are paid death notices prepared by funeral home directors. To place a classified obituary call 412-263-1371. To suggest a news obituary, call 412-263-1601. Funeral home directors may also call 412-263-1601 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to note a death for which there is no classified obituary. Those names will be listed under other deaths.


ALAIMO, Carmella V., South Side

ALLEN, Daryl C.J., Point Breeze

BAILEY, Bruce Edward, Cranberry

BARNER, Kenneth H., Bethel Park

BARNES, Winifred Stockton Cranmer, Butler

BATCHELOR, John W., Plum, formerly Penn Hills

BISHOP, Clara E., Ohio Township

BROWN, Timothy J., Greenfield

BUCZKOWSKI, Joanne Virginia Becker, Garfield

CAIUZZI, Scorisa Columbus "Sue," Scott

CARUSO, Frances Valerino "Franny," Hampton

CRAWFORD, June K., Hampton

DANIELE, William A. "Ban," Beechview

DUGAN, Leona A., Brookline

EATON, Harry Reed, Amarillo, Texas

FRIEL, John T.

GOODMAN, Hyman Louis, Bradford, McKean County

GREB, Dorothy J. Koeper, Castle Shannon

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