Willem Rutger van Zwet was born in Leiden, the Netherlands, on March 31, 1934. He received his high school education at the Gymnasium Haganum in The Hague and obtained his Masters degree in Mathematics at the University of Leiden in 1959. After serving in the army for almost two years, he obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Amsterdam in 1964, with Jan Hemelrijk as advisor. In 1965, he was appointed Associate Professor of Statistics at the University of Leiden and promoted to Full Professor in 1968. He remained in Leiden until his retirement in 1999, while also serving as Associate Professor at the University of Oregon (1965), William Newman Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1990–1996), frequent visitor and Miller Professor (1997) at the University of California at Berkeley, director of the Thomas Stieltjes Institute of Mathematics in the Netherlands (1992–1999), and founding director of the European research institute EURANDOM (1997–2000). At Leiden, he was Dean of the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (1982–1984). He served as chair of the scientific council and member of the board of the Mathematics Centre at Amsterdam (1983–1996) and the Leiden University Fund (1993–2005).
Bill served on numerous committees of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), the Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and Probability (BS), the International Statistical Institute (ISI) and the American Statistical Association (ASA). For IMS, he was Associate Editor (1972–1980) and Editor (1986–1988) of The Annals of Statistics, and President (1991–1992). For the Bernoulli Society, he was President (1987–1989) and Editor-in-Chief of Bernoulli (2000–2003). He served ISI as Chair of the Organizing Committee of the Centenary Session at Amsterdam (1985), two-term Vice-President (1985–1989), program chair for the Session at Florence (1993), and President (1997–1999). He was a member of the Board of Directors of ASA (1993–1995). He was a member of the Corporation and the Board of NISS (1993–2002). He served as member and chair of the European Regional Committee (1969–1980) that organized the European Meetings of Statisticians, and for many years as an organizer of the Dutch Stochastics Meetings at Lunteren (1972–1999).
He gave the Wald Memorial Lectures (1992), the Hotelling Lectures at the University of North Carolina (1988), and the Bahadur Lectures at the University of Chicago (2005). He is an Honorary Doctor of Charles University at Prague (1997), a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (1979), and the Academia Europaea (1990). He is a recipient of the Van Dantzig Medal of the Netherlands Society for Statistics and Operations Research (1970), the Bernoulli Medal (Tashkent, 1986), the Peace Medal of Charles University (1988), the AKZO-Nobel Award (1996), and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize (2006). In 1996, he was made a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Bill has published some 80 research papers and two books.
"An Evening Spent with Bill van Zwet." Statist. Sci. 24 (1) 87 - 115, February 2009. https://doi.org/10.1214/08-STS261