The Fields Institute Turns Twenty-Five 170725 Final book with covers - Page 27

Where it All Began 5 John Polking Lends a Hand I had been a member of Shiing-shen Chern’s program at MSRI during its inaugural year and one of the people I met there, John Polking, had since become the head of the Mathematics Program at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the agency responsible for funding MSRI. I phoned John to see if he would give me some idea of the budget required to run MSRI. He said that he could do better than that because the MSRI budget was a public document. So he put a copy of it into the mail. As I had expected, the annual awards envisioned in the Ontario Centres of Excellence Program were more than enough to run a Berkeley-style institute. What is more, the line-by-line MSRI budget provided a virtual blueprint for the creation of an institute of our own. This was the first of many instances when highly placed friends in the international mathematics community provided help and advice. Waterloo Support Gets Official Blessing I quickly found a number of supporters for the idea of pressing Waterloo to back a proposal for a Centre of Excellence in Mathematics. As I recall, the ad hoc committee I recruited to apply this pressure consisted of Adrian Bondy, Grafton Hui, David Jackson, John Lawrence, and John Wainwright. Aside from me, they were all senior professors, giving the committee importance and weight that was difficult to ignore. After a good deal of debate in the Mathematics Faculty, a meeting between my committee and Waterloo President Doug Wright was convened by the Dean of Mathematics. Wright agreed that the University would support an application for a Mathematics Centre of Excellence in the expected call for