Marvin Rosenblum

They Did the Math So Others Could Learn

Gift Creates Marvin Rosenblum Professorship in Mathematics

In 1984, undergraduate Mendel Rosenblum (College ’84) quietly revolutionized how University of Virginia faculty, students and staff would communicate with one another by developing U.Va.’s first electronic mail—or “email”—system.

Now, 27 years later, Rosenblum and his wife, Diane Greene, (above, left) have ushered in another transformation that will greatly benefit the University. Honoring his late father, former mathematics department chair and professor Marvin Rosenblum, the couple gave $3 million to create the Marvin Rosenblum Professorship in Mathematics in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

Marvin Rosenblum taught for 45 years in U.Va.’s mathematics department, where he also directed dissertations and became known internationally as an expert in operator theory and analysis. His discovery that absolutely continuous spectra are stable under small perturbations remains one of the cornerstones of perturbation theory.

In his dealings with students and colleagues, Professor Rosenblum was known for generosity and supportiveness. In the words of one former student, he was a “role model in treating all people fairly, with grace, respect, intelligence, kindness, and good humor.”

The endowed professorship will be used to attract and retain capable, visionary leaders in the department. The College is currently recruiting candidates for this important post.

“Having the Rosenblum chair means we can recruit a world-renowned mathematician to head the department and guide its growth during this time of transition,” said Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College. “We are immensely grateful to Mendel and Diane for making that possible.”

Mendel Rosenblum earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, where he pursued his interest in computer science. He met Diane Greene, a fellow computer science graduate student, and they married in 1992.

In 1998 they co-founded VMware, a software technology company that created the mainstream market for virtualization, today a cornerstone of cloud computing. Greene was CEO and Rosenblum chief scientist for 11 years. They left in mid-2008.

Today, Rosenblum serves as associate professor of computer science at Stanford University, where he leads a group focused on operating systems research. “We’re interested in developing storage systems for high-performance sites, like Google and Facebook,” he said.

Together with his students, he developed the Hive operating system, the SimOS machine simulator and the Disco virtual machine monitor.

Reflecting on his connection to U.Va., Mendel Rosenblum feels gratitude and responsibility. “I very much wanted to do something for U.Va. and the math department,” he said. “I took my time to figure out what would be a good use of the gift.

“With economic circumstances as they are, when public universities are feeling the crunch from reduced state funding, the University needs strong alumni support to continue operating at the highest levels and to attract the best and the brightest.”