Stephen M. Pollock

February 15, 1936

Brief Biography

Pollock Presidential Gallery Portrait

Stephen Pollock was the thirty-fifth president of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). Pollock’s desire to be a scientist dates back to a very young age. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he was fascinated by the idea that one could use math to find solutions to “word problems” that were of possible practical interest, an idea that significantly informed his subsequent career. He went to Cornell University to study engineering physics. The engineering physics program at Cornell produced an early generation of operations research analysts, including Alfred Blumstein. Unaware, he has written, that his undergraduate education focused more analytical problem solving approaches than on traditional physics, Pollock intended to continue a Physics education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However he struggled in his coursework and examinations and was turned towards operations research by his future advisor, Ron Howard, and OR founding father Philip Morse.

After receiving his PhD, Pollock sought an opportunity to explore real-world OR Applications problems. At the suggestion of Howard and Morse, he joined Arthur D. Little Company and enjoyed the varied and fascinating projects that came his way. There he worked directly with George Kimball and Martin Ernst, in addition to interacting with John Magee, then head of the Management Services Division. Even after leaving ADL, Pollock continued his professional relationship with them during Magee's tenure as the firm's president. Over time, he started to consider a switch to academia and accepted a position at the US Naval Postgraduate School.  Though Pollock found his military OR work important, Blumstein convinced him that it was necessary for OR methods to be used in newly identified challenges in the public sector including public transportation, health systems, and law enforcement. In 1969, he was approached by Seth Bonder at the University of Michigan. Pollock joined the Department of Industrial Engineering in Ann Arbor on the promise that he could pursue OR problems that interested him.

Pollock remained at the University of Michigan for the remainder of his professional career. He applied decision analysis and other operations research methods to understand and influence a variety of operational phenomena, including military search and detection, criminal recidivism, manufacturing process monitoring, reliability, maintenance and the design of radiation treatment plans. His teaching was devoted to passing on to students the importance and beauty of creating and using mathematical models ('word problems') that parsimoniously represent controllable aspects of the world around us.

In his thirty-five years of active involvement with the Operations Research Society of America, Pollock provided service leadership in virtually every aspect of the society. He served as chair of numerous committees including the Education Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee. Pollock has additionally played a major role in the publications community of ORSA and its successor, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). He is an associate editor of both Operations Research and Management Science. From 1985 to 1989, Pollock served as senior editor of IIE Transactions, the flagship journal of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.

Pollock’s care for the growth and education of next-generation operations research is best exemplified in the establishment of ORSA/INFORMS’ “Doctoral Colloquium.” As ORSA president, he made use of the presidential fund to institute this symposium for senior PhD students. It presented a fantastic opportunity to network with their peers and get exposure to the challenges and rewards of life after the PhD. The colloquium is a defining gemstone featured yearly at the national INFORMS meetings. During his presidential tenure, Pollock was also instrumental in setting the early stages of planning for the society’s 1995 merger with The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS).

Though he has officially retired from teaching, Pollock remains an active OR consultant and continues to serve on various committees for the National Research Council. 

Other Biographies

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Galley: Stephen M. Pollock. Accessed March 18, 2015. (link

The University of Michigan Faculty Memoir Project. Stephen M. Pollock Biography. Accessed March 18, 2015. (link

University of Michigan College of Engineering. Industrial and Operations Engineering Faculty: Stephen M. Pollock. Accessed March 18, 2015. (link


Cornell University, BS 1957

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MS 1960

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD 1964 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Stephen Pollock (2016) Interview by Mark Daskin, November 14, 2016.  Nashville, TN

NOTE: The video chapter transcripts are searchable, with search results displayed as marks on the time bar above the search box.  Click a mark to jump to the search word or phrase in the video and transcript, or click on any word in the transcript to jump to that point in the video.

Jump to Chapters

Chapter 1: Early Life Through College
Chapter 2: Graduate School in Physics
Chapter 3: First Job at Arthur D. Little
Chapter 4: Naval Postgraduate School
Chapter 5: Industrial and Operations Engineering at Michigan
Chapter 6: Choosing Problems to Work On
Chapter 7: Most Interesting Problems
Chapter 8: Career Advice for Others
Chapter 9: Challenges for the Field of OR

Memoirs and Autobiographies


The University of Michigan Faculty Memoir Project. Stephen M. Pollock Memoirs. Accessed March 18, 2015. (link)

Awards and Honors

George E. Kimball Medal 2001

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

National Academy of Engineering Member 2002

Professional Service

Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), President 1986

Selected Publications

Donis J. & Pollock S. (1967) Allocation of Resources to Randomly Occurring Opportunities. Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, 14(4): 513-527.

Chen K., Lagler K., Pollock S. (1973) Growth Policy: Population, Environment and Beyond. The University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Pollock S. (1974) A Model for the Evaluation of Golf Handicapping. Operations Research, 22(5): 1040-1050.

Pollock S. (1979) Innovation in Systems Science Education: The Modeling Studio. Bayraktar B. A. et al., eds. in Education in Systems Science. Taylor and Francis Ltd: London.

Pollock S. (1980) Surveillance and Search Theory. Halley K. B. & Stone L. B., eds. in Search Theory and Applications. Plenum Press: New York.

Birge J. & Pollock S. (1989) Modeling Rural Police Patrol. Journal of Operational Research Society, 40(1): 41-54.

Pollock S. (1994) Operations Research in the Public Sector. Barnett A. & Rothkopf M., eds. in Handbooks in Operations Research and the Management Sciences, Volume IV, 715. North-Holland: Boston.

Pollock S. M. & Golhar, D. (1998) The canning problem revisited: The case of capacitated production and fixed demand. European journal of operational research,105(3): 475-482.

Bordley R. & Pollock S. (2009) A Decision Analytic Approach to Reliability-Based Design Optimization. Operations Research, 57(5) 1262–1270.