Peter Nemenyi Papers, 1952-1979


Peter Bjorn Nemenyi was born April 14, 1927 in Berlin, Germany, the son of Hungarian parents. When Peter was six years old, the family left Germany, and settled among refugee groups living in Denmark and England. In 1945 Peter came to the United States, where he was educated. He attended Washington State College from 1945 to 1946 (where his father, Paul, taught mathematics), and then served in the U.S. Army for one year before resuming his studies at the University of Wisconsin and graduating from Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Following two years of graduate work in mathematical statistics at Princeton University, 1950-1952, Nemenyi was employed in New York as an actuarial and medical statistician. In 1957, he married Velia Torres, a teacher and secretary. The couple had no children and were divorced in 1961 or 1962.

Early in the 1960's Nemenyi turned to college teaching, and during the following two decades served on the faculties of Hunter College, New York; Tougaloo Southern Christian College, Mississippi; Oberlin College, Ohio; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Virginia State College, Petersburg; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While a professor at Tougaloo, Nemenyi became active in local civil rights work and was a volunteer in Laurel, Mississippi, for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). After he moved to North Carolina in 1965, the focus of his efforts was directed increasingly toward helping minority high school and college students secure educational and job opportunities, particularly in computer- and medical-related areas. Eventually Nemenyi's political views and volunteer work eclipsed in importance his academic duties and he devoted less time to teaching; this led to disagreements with college administrators. In the fall of 1979 Nemenyi left teaching and the United States and went to Nicaragua with the intention of helping the new government.