OBITUARY

Dr. Asen L Dontchev

June 19, 1948September 16, 2021

Dr. Asen L. Dontchev, 73, of Ann Arbor, Michigan passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Thursday, September 16, 2021. Asen is survived by his wife, Dora, his sister, Nina (Mitko), his kids, Mira (Wil) and Kiko (Erin), and his grandkids, Yasen, Sonya, and Finn.

Asen was born June 19, 1948 in Pleven, Bulgaria to Lubomir and Maria Dontchevi. He grew up loving math and music and attended two schools in parallel – one for math and another for music where he studied violin. He was an exceptional mathematician winning awards at Math Olympiads early in life. That success led him to study mathematics in Poland at the Warsaw University of Technology where he completed his PhD in Control Sciences in 1974.

Upon his return to Bulgaria, Asen became a professor at the Institute of Mathematics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and settled into life in Sofia. He married Dora in 1978 and together they welcomed two children: Mira (1979) and Kiko (1986).

Mathematics was Asen’s passion. He could often be found writing formulas and working on his next paper. He was always thinking about the next idea and the next problem. His first book was published in 1983 and over his lifetime he wrote six books – two in Bulgarian and four in English. His last book – Lectures in Variational Analysis – will be published later this year. He published 128 papers and served as editor on some of the top mathematical journals of his field. In 1987 he reached the prestigious level of Doctor of Mathematical Sciences and became full professor in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. In 2015 he was awarded a medal by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences for significant contributions to the field of mathematics.

In 1990 Asen and his family started a new chapter in a new country at a time of great change in Eastern Europe. He became Associate Editor at Mathematical Reviews, which brought him and his family to the United States and to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Asen quickly became affiliated with the University of Michigan and started teaching as Adjunct Professor of Mathematics and Aerospace Engineering. He also connected with top mathematicians across the United States, which led him to serve as Program Director for Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation from 2007 to 2009.

But life for Asen was not just about math. He loved the outdoors and he loved adventures. On any given day you could find him fishing on his boat at North Lake, swimming at Blind Lake, playing tennis in the neighborhood, hiking the Potawatomi trail, skiing in Hudson Mills Metropark or biking along Huron River Drive. Asen loved the high mountains he had first known in Bulgaria, and in the United States he found those high mountains in Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Washington, where he took every opportunity to find lakes full of fish. Asen also loved traveling and meeting mathematicians from all over the world.

Asen was a master at blending his love for his work, his love for the outdoors, and his love for his family and friends. Asen lived life fully and inspired us all.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled for 11am on Saturday, September 25th, 2021 at one of Asen’s favorite places, the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Asen's life. Because many of Asen’s colleagues and friends are around the world, we will do our best to host the event over zoom. Please check back for details.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Debbie’s Dream Foundation.

We welcome fond memories and expressions of sympathy at his obituary webpage.

A recording of Asen L. Dontchev's Celebration of Life is below.

  • FAMILY

  • Dora Dontcheva, Wife
  • Mira Dontcheva, Daughter
  • Kiko Dontchev, Son

Services

  • A Memorial Gathering of Family and Friends

    Saturday, September 25, 2021

Memories

Dr. Asen L Dontchev

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Olga Luppov

October 4, 2021

Dear Dora and Family,
Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. May the warmest memories of your husband, father, grandfather live in your hearts forever.

Olga Luppov

Diethard Klatte

September 29, 2021

Hallo Asen - thank you so much for all the disussions on mathematics, God and the world, often till late in the night.
Bye-bye forever!
Diethard

Edward Dunne

September 26, 2021

Asen was a remarkable man. He was an accomplished mathematician, a first-class editor, an avid outdoorsman, a proud father, and a devoted husband. His mathematical accomplishments enabled him to travel the world. He had collaborators from Australia to Seattle to Austria to Bulgaria and back home to Ann Arbor. By the time I came here as executive editor, Asen had been an MR editor for over 20 years. I often spoke with Asen about MR, especially in my first couple of years. Our conversations helped refine my understanding of the editorial mission of the 75-year old institution I had joined. They also made me feel truly welcome. Asen believed deeply in the value of what we did and the need to make sure that we achieved that mission with excellence. Moreover, he had given a lot of thought to these issues. We didn’t agree on everything, but the discussions were always friendly and remarkably productive. I had hoped to see more of Asen after he retired. But he was as busy as usual, and then the pandemic intervened. I am shocked and particularly saddened by Asen’s passing. When I heard the news, the sense of loss was palpable. To those who knew him better and longer than I did, especially to his beloved family, the loss is so much greater. But as I think now over the seven years that I knew Asen, I have good memories. So much of what he did was an adventure to him, whether his hand held a fishing rod or pen. They were adventures that he embraced with passion and wonder. I am going to miss that. Godspeed, Asen.

Vladimir Tonchev

September 25, 2021

Dear Dora, Mira, and Kiko,

We are deeply saddened to learn that Asen passed away. When we talked with him in February last year, he had many wonderful plans for travel, research, visiting friends, and enjoying retirement. We will miss his sense of humor, positive attitude, and inspiring conversations.

Please accept our condolences,
Mariana and Vladimir

Vania Galcheva

September 25, 2021

Dear Dora, Mira, and Kiko,

We were very saddened to learn about Asen’s passing. For over 25 years he was a part of our lives. We celebrated and mourned together. He was always someone you could rely on, ready to help, even when he had taken ill. He was a kind of godfather to all Bulgarian’s in Ann Arbor. His door was always open to everyone. Our fond memories of him live on. Please accept our deepest sympathies.

Vania, Vlado, Tzeno, Karina

Marianna Todorova

September 25, 2021

Dear Dora, Mira and Kiko,

All my love and my deepest condolences to you and the rest of your family. I will always remember Asen as the most warm and genuine person. He will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Asen!

Marianna

George Yin

September 24, 2021

From George Yin, University of Connecticut

I am saddened to hear about the passing of Asen. He was a great colleague and a dear friend. Asen made significant contributions to optimization, control, variational analysis, and related fields.
During the years, I had the privilege working with him on the editorial board of SIAM Journal on Control and Optimization.
His passing is a great loss to the journal and to SIAM. Mitch Chernoff, SIAM Publications Manager, noted that "Asen Dontchev served as a Corresponding Editor for the journal since 2015. Prior to that, for 15 years, spanning 2000 – 2014, he worked as a SICON Associate Editor. Editorial Board service of this length is impressive and not often seen."

Many people recalled their work with Asen. Jinglai Shen, one of the members of the editorial board, noted that "Asen was extremely knowledgeable and responsive, and he was also very supportive to junior editors in the meanwhile. He always provided timely and insightful suggestions and supported my ideas when I had a difficult time making a decision on some paper and had to consult him. It was such a pleasant experience working with Asen, from which I learned a lot."

Even when he was really ill, Asen still managed to put the journal's work on top priority. Very recently, he suggested finding a replacement for him due to his illness. This facilitated the continuity of editorial transition.

On a personal note, Asen was always friendly and willing to help in any way he could. Before one of my visits to Bulgaria, I asked him for suggestions on many things. He explained to me each of these in detail. He even suggested to me where to stay in Sofia, and the best way to reach Burgas, etc.

Asen's life would seem too short to many, but those who were touched by him understood that the quality of existence far exceeds the quantity of time in which one lives. We will forever remember his smile, his legacy, and his contributions to mathematics.

Metodi Dimitrov

September 24, 2021

Dear Dora and Family,
Please accept our deepest condolences for your tremendous loss of your Husband, and Father of Mira and Kiko. We sincerely mourn his passing and we will always remember his kindness, his friendship, the hours we spent with him in the gym, on holiday celebrations, fishing adventures and his sense of humor.
Rest in peace, our dear friend.
From Metodi, Marina and Boian Dimitrov.

Milan Lukic

September 24, 2021

Asen has lived his life to the fullest. It is hard believe that he passed away. He was a great colleague, always willing to help, and quickly getting to the heart of a problem. We shared a love for outdoors and talked about it a lot. I miss him ...

My deepest condolences to the family.

Dimitar & Mominka Filev

September 24, 2021

Dear Dora,
Please accept our deepest condolences for the loss of Asen. He will be remembered as an excellent researcher and a man of great character and humanity.
Dimitar & Mominka Filev

FROM THE FAMILY