Alfred Aeppli, math professor and activist

The U of M professor and Swiss native was known for upholding the principles of math and humanitarianism.

Alfred Aeppli

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Alfred Aeppli, who taught math to thousands of students during his tenure at the University of Minnesota, was also a lifelong activist for international peace.

His dedication to the issues that concerned him was evident in his work, friends said. He taught math for 37 years at the U and was a regional representative for the Presbyterian Church for 27 years.

A member of the Minnesota Streetcar Federation, he drove a streetcar at Lake Harriet for more than 20 years. And he was a longtime member of the World Federalist Movement.

"To keep up with developments in the field [of mathematics], and do all the other things he did, took a huge amount of energy,'' said Aeppli's U colleague and friend, Joel Roberts. "Not everyone agreed with him [politically], but he was recognized as a man of principle.''

Aeppli, 79, died Sept. 14. He was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. He accepted a teaching job at Cornell University in 1957, moving his family to St. Paul in 1961 to teach at the University of Minnesota. Until he became ill last year, Aeppli continued to have an office at the U and attended the department's weekly seminars, Roberts said.

His spiritual home was Macalester-Plymouth United Church, where Aeppli served as an elder, a choir member and a commissioner to the presbytery. Most recently he authored a resolution, adopted by the national General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in June, that called for nations to resolve their differences through cooperation and dialogue rather than armed conflict.

Seeing that resolution pass the general assembly was a proud moment for Aeppli, said his wife of 53 years, Dorothee.

Aeppli was interested in many social issues. He was a leader in the movement to organize a union for U faculty in the 1970s, his wife said. The movement was not successful, and Aeppli supported a similar effort in the 1990s.

"He was a tireless advocate for peace,'' said Heidi Vardeman, senior minister at Macalester-Plymouth United Church. "Faith, for him, had to do with community, equality and fellowship among nations. It was part of one seamless garment for him.''

Aeppli also was a past president of the board of directors of the Twin Cities Swiss American Association, his wife said.

When a friend invited Aeppli to drive the popular Lake Harriet street car, Aeppli took him up on the offer. He continued for 20 years, driving a few runs as recently as last year, his wife said.

Aeppli loved music, and served for several years on the board of the Music in the Park series in the couple's St. Anthony Park neighborhood.

But first and foremost, Aeppli was a mathematician and a teacher, said his wife, adding "He had a talent for math and really enjoyed it.''

In addition to his wife, Aeppli is survived by two sons, Gabriel of London, England, and Andreas of the Boston area, as well as two grandsons. Funeral services have been held.

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