Mavis Bowler Carroll

October 12, 1917 - March 7, 2009
Mavis Bowler Carroll

Mavis Carroll, mother of Pam Humbaugh, succumbed to pneumonia in Wilmington, NC on March 7, 2009 at the age of 91.

Mavis was a unique woman, well ahead of her time. She graduated high school at 16 and was given a full scholarship in mathematics to attend New Jersey College for Women (now Rutgers University), graduating in 1938. Her career in mathematics included actuarial analysis, code breaking during WWII for the government and managing a statistics department. Mavis was well known in the statistical field – as a member of the American Statistical Association and as a contributor to the Gordon Research Conferences.

Mavis was never at a loss to entertain herself or others. Her solitary pastimes were intellectual ones, particularly puzzles – crossword, jigsaw, crypto quotes, logic, and anagrams. A voracious reader, she had a particular bent for mysteries – which, of course, she tried to solve before finishing the book. But she also loved socializing, entertaining, cooking and playing games – charades, pictionary, liars dice, six letter word game, trivial pursuit and of course bridge. With her wealth of knowledge, you definitely wanted her on your team.

Mavis was passionate about many things, but the top two were food and traveling. She enjoyed all aspects of food – eating it, preparing it, figuring out new flavor combinations and how to creatively use leftovers.

Her love of travel took her virtually anywhere, anytime and with anyone. She liked to experience countries on her own terms – no guided tours for her. She would walk around, visit museums, admire architecture, experience local cuisine and just soak in the culture. But she also liked learning about the culture, and took advantage of educational travel through Elderhostel, making many friends that she kept contact with to this day.

Mavis is survived by her 3 daughters – Pamela Humbaugh of Wilmington NC, Kay Carroll of Litchfield CT and Patricia Hehlo of East Brunswick NJ, as well as 3 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

At Mavis’ request there will be no services. At some future date, her ashes will be spread in “her” ocean. Her love of animals led her to donate her pacemaker to a vet school. Her memory can be honored with donations to the New Hanover Humane Society, 2405 N. 23rd Street, Wilmington, NC 28401.


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  • March 10, 2009
    Matt Humbaugh says:
    My grandmother was an amazing woman. I am thankful for many gifts from her, not least the love of travel, fierce independence, and statistical mindset which I trace directly to her. I will miss her daily.

  • March 09, 2009
    Deb Etzel says:
    My sympathies are with your entire family. Mavis was fundamental in my development into an adult person. As my first boss and mentor and long time friend, she helped shape the woman I have become. I am very thankful to have known her and cherish the memories I have of her.

  • March 09, 2009
    Charles C. Beazley says:
    I share with many the memories of Mavis as a charming, intelligent, and warm hearted person. But I also want to give her well-deserved credit for being the champion behind the effective use of statistics to make General Foods Research a valued tool for its business. Besides hiring several statisticians (including me), she taught us how to put our textbook knowledge to use in research projects. I heve always felt a debt of gratitude, and now remember her with both sadness and great respect.

  • March 09, 2009
    Eloise Eller says:
    Mavis leaves a great heritage in her children/family...intelligence, compassion and sense of humor. Her physical presence will be missed...yet she lives on. May you be supported in this time of transition by knowing that others care and hold you close in their hearts.

  • March 09, 2009
    Doug Hlavacek says:
    I was hired by Mavis in 1979 to join the Applied Math department at General Foods. Although I had competing job offers, it was simply impossible to turn Mavis down. Her department had a well-known reputation and she excelled at taking educated students and transforming them into practical hands-on statisticians. According to Mavis, a good statistician wasn't just a technical expert, but had to be adept at the soft skills like listening actively and communicating clearly. On the latter point, Mavis would proofread technical reports to make sure they made sense. To this day, I can fondly remember her scolding me for reporting p-values out to the fourth decimal point. It was a mistake I never made again. Graduate school gave me the opportunity to read statistical textbooks cover to cover. Mavis attached a face to the authors of some of those textbooks by inviting her friends into departmental meetings. I conversed with Cuthbert Daniel, Stu Hunter, Ed Schilling, and Harry Smith on topics ranging from statistics to life in general. These statistical legends didn't seem nearly as untouchable after dinner and a few drinks. And speaking of food and drinks, the after hours parties at her house in Tarrytown offered a welcome reprieve from the workplace. I always felt that I had two mothers…one who gave birth to me as a son and the other who gave birth to me as a statistician. Mavis will truly be missed by everyone who crossed paths with her.