URBANA — Thomas Andrew Nevins died at age 48 on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, in Urbana.
He was born on June 14, 1971, in Milwaukee, Wis., and educated at Marquette University High School, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. After a postdoc at the University of Michigan, he joined the Department of Mathematics at the University of Illinois in 2004.
Tom was a leading mathematical talent whose research resided at the interface between geometry, algebra and physics. A recent result resolved a celebrated conjecture and helped pioneer the field of symplectic representation theory, which merges the physics of supersymmetric quantum systems with problems in abstract algebra through geometry.
Tom freely shared his insights and enthusiasm with colleagues through informal conversations, collaborations and inspiring research seminars. He gave invited lectures all across North America, Europe and Asia. He was an award-winning instructor; a dedicated and encouraging adviser and mentor to graduate students, postdocs and junior colleagues; and a diligent servant to the department. Tom was honored as a Fellow of the American Mathematical Association and as a Simons Foundation Fellow. The absence of his friendly presence from the mathematical community will be felt widely.
Tom was devoted to Stephanie (Overmyer); they started dating their freshman year of college and were married in 1996. He was a wonderful father to Nathaniel and Theodore, with whom he spent lots of time roughhousing and joshing around as well as running, bouldering, ice skating and swimming; playing tennis and catch; and working on model trains.
The family loved to travel together, sometimes extensively in conjunction with Tom's sabbaticals. Their favorite week each year was spent in South Haven, Mich., enjoying the beach — and Sherman’s ice cream — rain or shine.
Music meant a lot to Tom. His eclectic taste stretched from polyphonic (medieval) vocal music to alt and indie pop and even some rap, and all sorts of things in between. His diagnosis interrupted the recording of the second album of original material by the band TNT, which featured Tom on vocals and guitar, Nathaniel on drums and Theodore on bass. Other beloved pastimes included running (especially), enjoying food and coffee, watching movies, bicycling, spending time outdoors and working on their old house in West Urbana.
Tom was modest, patient, good-natured and thoroughly decent; he was hardworking, curious, full of ideas and committed to excellence. He was an oasis of calm and had a quiet but steady faith. We keenly miss his love of fun and his ready sense of humor. Tom showed up, pitched in and lightened the load wherever he went; he had a sharp mind but a kind heart. He was the best!
He is survived by his wife, Stephanie; his sons, Nathaniel and Theodore; his parents, Joanne (nee Hafran) and Craig (Susie) Nevins; his brother, Charles (Therese); Stephanie's parents, Steve and Judith Overmyer, and her siblings Chris (Laura), Andrew (Kimberley) and Sheryl; four nieces and a nephew, all beloved; and many dear friends and colleagues here and abroad.
Stephanie and the boys wish to express their deep gratitude to friends, family, neighbors and Tom’s colleagues for their unwavering and ongoing support, including (but not limited to) an amazing MealTrain.
Memorials may be made to a charity of your choice or to the Urbana Park District Foundation (303 W. University Ave., Urbana IL 61801), the Urbana Free Library Foundation (210 W. Green St., Urbana IL 61801) or the Malnati Brain Tumor Institute at Northwestern Memorial Foundation (541 N. Fairbanks Court, Suite 800, Chicago IL 60611). A memorial event is intended for this spring.
A more detailed obituary may be found at www.HeathandVaughn.com.