Rod Driver








Meet Rod Driver

Childhood in London

Rod Driver was born in London, England, in 1932 to Bill and Marjorie Driver. Rod and his brother and sister were U.S. citizens from birth via their father's citizenship.

The family lived frugally while Bill Driver put whatever money he could raise into his manufacturing businesses -- with little financial success. In September, 1939, when German troops invaded Poland and Britain declared war on Germany, Bill evacuated his wife and children to a village away from the city. But the air raids did not start when expected, so Bill brought his family back to London. Once the bombardments began, the family stayed in London. They spent the nights on cots in an interior hallway in their apartment as protection in case of flying glass or shrapnel. Many Londoners slept in subway stations or other designated shelters. The Driver family was fortunate that its apartment never took a direct hit, although other parts of the apartment building were bombed. German bombs severely damaged Bill Driver's factory. And on one occasion the family watched their neighbors' home burn to the ground while London's fire-fighting and rescue teams were stretched too thin to respond.

Bill Driver wanted to move his family to the United States, but travel was too risky during the war. Close friends of the family were lost when their ship was torpedoed on its way to Australia.

It was May 8, 1945 (VE Day) when Bill Driver somehow managed to get his family onto a small troopship in a convoy returning to the United States. Despite an encounter with German U-boats, whose crews were unaware that the war was over, no ships in the convoy were lost on that 12-day crossing. One U-boat was sunk.

Education, Family and Politics

The Drivers settled in Minneapolis. After high school, Rod studied at the University of Minnesota, earning a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1953.

During his college days he became concerned about issues of foreign policy and human rights. This concern was less a result of his childhood experiences during the war than of the time he spent in a Platoon Leaders' Class on Parris Island in 1951. When weapons instructors explained that "you've gotta kill the enemy before he kills you," Rod had a problem with the logic. What if enemy instructors were telling their troops the same thing?

Rod decided that to make changes in policy required involvement in politics. In 1952, before he was old enough to vote, he campaigned hard for Dwight Eisenhower. And he has been active in political campaigns ever since. He has written 1,000 political articles over the years. Just a few are included in this web site.

In 1955 Rod got his M.S. in electrical engineering; and in the same year he and Carole Frandsen were married.

Carole and Rod had three children, David, Karen and Bruce, before Rod completed his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1960. Today the three "children" are married with children of their own.


Left to right: Dave's family, Karen's family, Bruce's family




Professional and Personal Life

Rod accepted visiting appointments at the Research Institute for Advanced Studies in Baltimore, Maryland, and at the Mathematics Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, before joining the staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1962. He came to the University of Rhode Island in 1969 where he served as a mathematics professor until 1998. Rod's three mathematics books and some of his research papers are listed elsewhere on this web site. He has lectured in Europe as well as across the United States on delay-differential equations and their applications.

Carole and Rod put their environmental concerns into practice - recycling, composting and driving fuel-efficient cars. They built a very successful solar-heated home in 1979. (Few solar-heated homes have been built since then, because interest waned with the end of tax credits and the apparent abundance of cheap oil.)


Carole and Rod at home in 2000



Elected Offices

In addition to campaigning for other candidates, Rod has run for office several times himself. His first success was his election as a delegate to the 1986 Rhode Island Constitutional Convention. During that convention Rod's eyes were opened to the realities of Rhode Island government. He frequently objected to power given to and wielded by the convention president, and he was appalled at the willingness of other delegates to just follow the leader. One of the few positive achievements of that convention was the "neutral re-write" introduced by Rod. This converted a confusing 19,000-word document, with amendments on amendments, to an 8,000-word readable constitution.

When the Constitutional Convention ended, Rod's constituents elected him to the Rhode Island House of Representatives, where he served from 1987 to 1994. Again he saw a majority of elected representatives turning over enormous power to their leaders. He was dismayed at legislators voting for bills without reading or understanding them -- bills which in many cases proved costly to Rhode Islanders. Generally speaking, bills passed because of the support of the leadership rather than because of the merits of the bill. Rod sounded the alarm frequently, both in the General Assembly and in the newspapers. In the General Assembly, he was known as the legislator most likely to object.

He worked on recycling, water protection, commuter rail service and other environmental concerns. He offered an alternative voice to those who routinely proposed longer prison sentences for non-violent offenses. He was the leader in the eventually-successful efforts to ban smoking in schools and to put some teeth into the law against selling tobacco products to children. And he became the legislature's main opponent of legalized gambling. Rod wrote the law which banned craps, blackjack, roulette and similar games in Rhode Island - creating a big hurdle for developers who wanted to build a full-fledged gambling casino in our state. In 1993 Rod was appointed to the House Finance Committee - the committee responsible for finalizing the state budget and other major legislation.

Other Civic Activities

After leaving the legislature, Rod served as the volunteer executive director of the Government Accountability Project for the year 1995.

In 1994 Rod had been a leading advocate for the successful constitutional amendment banning new types of gambling unless approved by the voters. So he could scarcely believe it when in 1996 the RI Lottery Commission and its director, John Hawkins, came up with a new televised bingo game ("Bingo Power"). Rod went to the meeting of the Lottery Commission scheduled to vote on the new game. He pointed out to the commission that the new game could not begin without voter approval, and that if they attempted to proceed he'd file a lawsuit against the commission. The commission voted for the new game, and Rod Driver (who is not an attorney) was in Superior Court the next day to file his complaint. Eventually Governor Almond joined Driver's suit, the game was blocked, and John Hawkins lost his job at the Lottery Commission.

For 48 years Rod has devoted much effort toward peace and human rights in Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. He is a member of Amnesty International, the American Friends Service Committee, SEARCH for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel, the Sierra Club, the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America.

A Hobby

Away from politics and mathematics, Rod tries to grow oranges and other citrus in Rhode Island.




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