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Science and Technology

 

Ivan Fellegi retires as Canada's longtime chief statistician

 

Randy Ray

 

After a career devoted to statistics, Ivan Fellegi will step down on June 16 to spend at least some of his retirement time dabbling in poetry, his first love.

 

"I still have a love of poetry," he told the Ottawa Citizen in mid-February after announcing his retirement, recalling how as a young man in Hungary he was "a budding poet."

 

At age 72, he's retiring after more than half-a-century with Statistics Canada, the last 22 as Canada's chief statistician.

 

Mr. Fellegi, who was born in Hungary in 1935, leaves his post with an enviable reputation, both for himself and the agency for which he worked for half-a-century. "I hope I contributed something to it," he said after the Prime Minister's Office announced his retirement. "People tell me I did."

 

Mr. Fellegi started working as a technical clerk for Statistics Canada in 1957 when it was known as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.

 

In retirement, the government has given him the unique title of chief statistician emeritus, which means that he's still available for projects and consultation. "I haven't lost too many neurons yet."

 

Mr. Fellegi’s ties with poetry began when he was a high school student in Hungary.  His love was literature, especially poetry. But in order to gain a place in university - since his family was considered bourgeois by the communist regime, it was hard to get a higher education - he entered an academic competition in literature rather than mathematics.

 

Mr. Fellegi was unable to compete his degree in Hungary. Like many others, he fled the country after Russians invaded to suppress the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

 

After arriving in Canada in 1957, Mr. Fellegi took a job at the statistics bureau while he finished his bachelor's degree. And he decided to stay after finishing his master's and doctorate until he eventually became the head of Statistics Canada in September 1985.

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