William Q. Meeker

Presentation on April 27, 2023

I (Alyson Wilson) would like to start by acknowledging the Army Wilks Memorial Awards committee that was chaired this year by Shane Hall from the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground. Additional information about the award can be found at the website armywilksaward.org.

The Samuel S. Wilks Memorial Medal and Award was established in 1964 with a gift from Philip Rust. The award commemorates the career of Professor Samuel S. Wilks and especially his service to the Army. Professor Wilks joined the faculty at Princeton in 1933, was named professor of mathematics and director of the Section of Mathematical Statistics at Princeton in 1944, and became chairman of the Division of Mathematics at the university in 1958. During World War II he was a consultant with the Office of Naval Research. After World War II, the Army realized that statistical methods improved the quality of equipment and reduced costs – and that it would be a good idea to use similar techniques for research, development, and testing of new equipment. Wilks was a member of the Army Mathematics Advisory Panel, and after touring 30 Army installations with the panel he noted, “the most frequently mentioned needs expressed by the scientific personnel were for greater knowledge of modern statistical theory of the design and analyses of experiments.” Wilks systematically undertook the task of accelerating the use of statistical techniques within the Army.

The original Wilks Memorial Medal and Award was given jointly by the U.S. Army and the American Statistician Association. In 1980, Philip Rust made another gift for the establishment of a second Wilks award, called “The Wilks Award for Contributions to Statistical Methodologies in Army Research, Development, and Testing.” It is this second Wilks award, which we shorthand as the Army Wilks Memorial Award, that we make today.

The Army Wilks Memorial Award was originally awarded at the Conference on the Design of Experiments in Army Research, Development, and Testing (1955-1994) and then at the Army Conference on Applied Statistics/Conference on Applied Statistics in Defense (1995-2016), and now here at DATAWorks. It is given periodically to a deserving individual who has made a substantial contribution to statistical methodology and application impacting the practice of statistics in the Army through personal research in statistics or application of statistics in the solution of Army problems.

The 2023 recipient of the Army Wilks Memorial Award is Dr. Bill Meeker from Iowa State University. Bill joined Iowa State in 1975 and is a Professor of Statistics and Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, the American Society for Quality, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute. Bill has broad research interests, including industrial and economic statistics, reliability and life testing, survival analysis, applied times series, nondestructive evaluation, and statistical computing.

Bill has authored over 150 peer-reviewed journal articles and several books, including recently Achieving Product Reliability: A Key to Business Success and the second edition of Statistical Methods for Reliability Data –- the book that all of us who work on reliability have on our shelf. While Bill has been instrumental in the development of reliability methodology, he also solves real-world problems. Among those mentioned in his nomination include:

  • An AMSAA-inspired problem analyzing recurrence data for a wheeled platform where some data were both right and left censored with gaps where the process could not be observed (“window observations”)
  • Designing a test plan using accelerated life models to help avoid accidental high explosives ignitions at Los Alamos

Bill has also been dedicated to education and training. As an example, he has taught his reliability short course to a variety of defense audiences including the Army Evaluation Command (AEC), the Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity (AMSAA), the Marine Corps, the Army Conference on Applied Statistics, and the Defense and Aerospace Test and Analysis Workshop. His short course on Pitfalls of Accelerated Testing at the Reliability and Maintainability Symposium (RAMS) is both popular and practical. And over the last 15 years, he has worked with JMP to help develop their reliability analysis platform.

The Army Wilks Memorial Award recognizes statisticians who contribute to the advancement of scientific or technical knowledge in Army statistics and the ingenious application of such knowledge. Bill Meeker exemplifies both of these, with his foundational contributions to reliability methodology and his ongoing focus on solving real problems and providing practical tools for the statistics practitioner.