Cover photo for Jon T. Pitts's Obituary
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1948 Jon 2024

Jon T. Pitts

January 10, 1948 — May 30, 2024

Jon T. Pitts died on May 30, 2024 at the age of 76.  Jon was born on January 10, 1948 in San Marcos, Texas to Thurmond Bishop and Henre Mabel Barfoot Pitts.  Jon had immense interest and talent in mathematics from a young age and won many awards and competitions in mathematics and science as a child.  As a high school student, he applied and was accepted to an internship at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston devising a mathematical formulation for accurately guiding the insertion of radioactive needles to kill cancerous tissue in the human body.  He was able to publish his findings, and his research was repeatedly honored.  After graduation from Stephen F. Austin High School in 1966, he attended The University of Texas at Austin, graduating with highest honors with a degree in mathematics in 1970.  He then went on to get his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1974 under the supervision of Frederick Almgren, Jr. with the thesis “Every Compact Three-Dimensional Manifold Contains Two-Dimensional Minimal Submanifolds.”   The Almgren-Pitts min-max theory is named after him and his advisor.

Jon met the love of his life, Karen O’Connor, while still in graduate school, and they were married in 1973.   Together they moved to Rochester, New York where Jon’s professional career began as an Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor at the University of Rochester.  A true native Texan, Jon returned to Texas with his wife when he was offered a position as Professor of Mathematics at Texas A&M University in College Station in 1981, where he remained until his retirement in 2018.

Over the course of his career, Jon also served as Special Assistant to the Provost and Accreditation Liaison Officer at Texas A&M, and he held visiting positions at various universities across the world.  He received the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship in 1981 in support of his early career.  He published many papers, mentored many students, and served on various committees in his work at Texas A&M along with winning various outstanding teaching and service awards.  He was also awarded funding from the National Science Foundation many times, including assistance in helping found and organize the Texas Geometry and Topology Conference.

In addition to his career, Jon was also a dedicated member of the College Station Rotary Club, even serving as President from 1998-1999.  He took great pride in helping his club achieve recognition as a 100% Paul Harris Fellow Club.  He was a member of the Leadership Brazos Class of 1997-1998 and a member of Toastmasters International.  He also loved computer games and made many friendships through his play.  He converted to Catholicism after marriage and was a founding member of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

Jon was the world's best husband and parent.  More than anything, Jon loved being a father and grandfather to his daughter and his three grandsons.  Spending time with his family brought him immense joy.

Jon was preceded in death by his parents.  He is survived by his loving wife of over 50 years Karen Pitts and daughter Jane Waugh, her husband Nolan, and grandsons Logan, Connor, and Nathan Waugh of Houston, Texas.  Visitation will be held on Friday, June 7, 2024, at 9:30 AM at Hillier Funeral Home of College Station. The service will be immediately following at 10:30 AM with Deacon Jeff Olsenholler officiating.  A private burial will be at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made in Jon’s name to the Rotary Club of College Station. Checks may be mailed to Rotary Club of College Station, P.O. Box 9745, College Station, TX 77842. Contributions can also be made online at https://my.rotary.org/en/donate by selecting “Rotary Club” in the “Club Information for Club Credit” section and entering Club ID 2022.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Jon T. Pitts, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Friday, June 7, 2024

9:30 - 10:30 am (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Friday, June 7, 2024

Starts at 10:30 am (Central time)

Deacon Jeff Olsenholler officiating

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