Paul Joyce

College of Science interim dean Paul Joyce portrait for college campaign case statement

Paul Joseph Joyce was born September 26, 1958 in Butte, Montana, one of the 12 children of Thomas and Dorothy Joyce. Academically gifted, he breezed through the Butte schools, and then graduated from Montana State University in just four years with both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics.  He went on to the University of Utah for his doctorate, where he met and married his wife and best friend, Janalyn Steed.  They had a son, Andrew, who brought great joy to the couple and became Paul’s favorite political debater, intellectual sparring partner and late night scotch drinker.

Joyce died on April 22 at the age of 57 in an auto accident near Orofino, Idaho. At the time of his death he served in a leadership role as dean of the College of Science at the University of Idaho, in addition to his roles as scientist, researcher, teacher, and mentor. He previously served as the director of the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology graduate program, as well as vice chair and chair of the Faculty Senate from 2010 to 2012.

At a time when post-graduate training in mathematics was rare, Joyce made opportunities for himself as visiting faculty at the University of Washington and the University of Southern California, and as a visiting scholar at University College London. In 1991, he took a permanent faculty position at the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he chose to remain for the rest of his career. There he mentored many young mathematicians, statisticians, and biologists who carry on his legacy teaching young minds around the world today. In addition to his roles at the University, Joyce also held several other titles over his career, including Associate Editor of Biology Letters and Fellow of the Newton Institute, Cambridge University, UK.  At the time of his death, Joyce was a finalist for the position of Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Idaho.

Biology professor Larry Forney remembered interacting with Joyce: “It’s disarming because he’s very humble and very modest about what he does, so you never realize you’re talking to one of the leaders in the field worldwide.”

Joyce received multiple honors from the University, including three Alumni Excellence Awards, the College of Science Distinguished Faculty Award, and the Donald Crawford Graduate Faculty Mentoring Award. He was named University Distinguished Professor this year for his work as a professor of mathematics and of statistical science as well as of bioinformatics and computational biology. He received this honor posthumously at the University Awards for Excellence ceremony this week.

Colleagues remember Paul for his dedication to his field as well as his humor, charisma and devotion to math jokes.  University of Idaho professor and friend Holly Wichman recalled of Joyce, “his favorite [joke] was about the gregarious mathematician – that’s the one at a party looking at the other guy’s shoes. Paul went way beyond that. He could look you in the eye, shake your hand, bring out the best in you, and make you laugh.”  He enjoyed the ironies in life almost as much as he enjoyed nurturing great minds and teaching his son’s friends to play poker.

Paul enjoyed the annual Joyce family reunions of his large clan — treading water competitions and poorly sung renditions of ’70s songs around the campfire. As a youth he was a competitive swimmer and a math nerd.  He would spend weekends working math problems, only breaking to watch Saturday Night Live with his father.

He is remembered fondly by his in-laws for the many holidays he spent helping them cook, shop and decorate, despite his stated distaste for the holiday season and his belief that the so-called “war on Christmas” was a just and winnable war.

He is survived by his wife, Jana; his son Andrew; his siblings Tom, Jim, Jack, Kate, Mike, Ann, Eileen, Bill, Mary, Dorothy and Margie, as well as his parents-in-law Janice and Gordon, his sister-in-law Sally, and his grandmother-in-law Beth; as well as 27 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents.

A wake will be held on Friday at the Best Western Inn in Moscow, Idaho at 7 p.m.  Friends and the public are welcome to come listen to and share memories of Paul. A service will be held at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the University Administrative Auditorium, with burial to follow at Moscow Cemetery.  A reception will be held at the Best Western at 5:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, an endowment is being set up to support students in the graduate program that Paul helped to create.  Donations can be made to the Paul Joyce Memorial BCB Fellowship Endowment by sending checks to the UI Foundation/Paul Joyce Memorial at the following address: University of Idaho Foundation Gift Administration Office, 875 Perimeter Drive, MS 3147 Moscow, ID  83844-3147.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Short’s Funeral Chapel of Moscow and online condolences may be left at

17 Responses to Paul Joyce

  1. Linn Brown and Richard Fredekind says:

    My wife, Linn, and I want to extend our deepest sympathy on the passing of Dean Joyce. I always enjoyed catching up with him and Eric Bennett when they visited the Bay Area. I will miss those conversations. Our condolences to his family and the entire University.

  2. Li Zeng says:

    It is with great sadness to receive the news about Dean Paul Joyce’s death. He was my major profession for my Statistics Master program during late 90’s. I will always be grateful for his help, guidance and encouragement. Such an intelligent and inspiring professor has accomplished so much in his life, yet was so humble. I will always cherish the memories.

    My deepest condolence goes to his family, friends and students.

  3. Kathy Piraino says:

    Jana and Andrew – I am shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Paul. I smile thinking back of visits to your home – always warm, inviting and so very funny. Condolences to you both.

  4. Rick Edgeman says:

    I had the privilege of working with Paul from 2004 through 2001. What a humble and good man … a true giant as a husband, father, colleague, friend, mentor, academic and leader … and as Newton stood on the shoulders of giants, there are those — and they are many — who have stood on Paul Joyce’s shoulders.

    The loss is a great one, leaving a great void.

    best wishes to Jana and Andrew for peace, for healing, and for remembrance.

  5. Myrle Crown says:

    Jana and Andrew – My heart aches for you and your extended family. Jana, this loss has caused me to reflect on the day I assisted in securing your job at the University of Utah – Math Department. As destined, it didn’t take you long to fall in love with Paul and he with you. By his side, you have watched him rise to greatness – now you will have wonderful memories to comfort you as you begin to heal from this sad tragedy. My love to you and Andrew

  6. Geeta Menon says:

    I am very shocked and grieved to hear about the untimely passing of Dr. Joyce. He was my professor in at least three math classes when I was an undergraduate and graduate student at the University during the early 1990s and 2000s. I was always struck by how brilliant he was. However, as a person, he was always so unassuming, approachable and willing to help.

    My condolences go out to Jana, Andrew, and the rest of Dr. Joyce’s family. Please know that he was greatly beloved.

  7. Don and Melinda Crawford says:


    We are shocked and saddened to learn of Paul’s passing. Our condolences go out to you and your family. We know how much he will be missed.

  8. Sharon Tretheway Jensen says:

    I am so sad to hear of Paul’s passing and my heart goes out to his family. I use to swim on the swim team with Paul many years ago and will always remember what a kind person he was. My thoughts and prayers go out to Paul’s family. Such a tragic loss.

  9. Tim Curry says:

    I was saddened to hear about the passing of a great friend. Paul and I swam together for many years on the Butte Tarpon Swim Club and on the Butte High School swim team. He was also a member of my wedding party, some 34 years ago. Paul and I shared so many great memories, with so many others, during the time that we spent together. I will always cherish the good times and laughter. My prayers go out to Jana, Andrew, and the entire Joyce family during this very difficult time.

  10. Martha (Geagan) HoffenbackerG says:

    Paul was someone I always thought would make something of himself, but then I think that of all of us who swam under Byrnsie. His family lived next door to a family friend of mine near Whittier Grade School. He had a demeanor that complimented everyone. He will be remembered by all of his team mates as a Special Part of the Whole Team. I am glad he became so accomplished. 🙂

  11. Ken Christie says:

    Paul was the level headed high school and college friend. When our group of friends was out he did his best to keep us out of trouble. In college he often helped us with our calculus. We all did well and Paul was a big part of it. My prayers go out to Paul’s family, all his friends and students.

  12. Martin Lascoux says:

    Paul was a great colleague. He came many years ago to Uppsala to give a very graduate course and we had a great time together. He will be sorely missed. My condolences go to his family and close colleagues.

    Martin Lascoux
    Uppsala University

  13. Diane Gilbert says:

    Jana & Andrew I am so terribly sorry for your loss. My thoughts & prayers are with you & all of Paul’s family. I remember all the wonderful times we shared when our children were young. I will always remember Paul as one of the nicest & brightest people around. But most of all I will remember him for all the love & devotion he showed to his wife & son. He was such an admirable man. Hugs & prayers. Diane Gilbert (formerly Boykin)

  14. Lisa Powers says:

    I am sending deepest condolences and prayers to the entire Joyce family. So very sorry to hear of Paul’s passing. Hold tight to each other, and remember all of the great times and memories. Love and prayers sent your way!

  15. Lawrence L. Knight, M.D. says:

    Dear Jana, Andrew, and family. We share your grief over the untimely passing of a fine educator and good friend. We had gotten to know him well over the past several years, and realized that his full potential had yet to be realized. He, and his accomplishments, will not be forgotten.
    Kaye and Larry Knight

  16. Rod Hill says:

    Jana and Andrew, it was with great sadness that we learned of Paul’s sudden passing, we are so sorry for your loss. Working with Paul on Faculty Senate at UI was a pleasure, professionally and personally he will be sadly missed. Our condolences go out to Jana, Andrew and the entire Joyce family.
    Rod and Lyn Hill.

  17. Kate Wharton says:

    Dear Jana, Andrew, and family, I am so sorry to hear about Dr. Joyce’s sudden passing. He was my major professor for my MS in Statistics from U of I back in 1992-1994. He was very helpful, creative, and a very energetic professor. I’m sorry for your loss.

Share Your Condolences:

Your email address will not be published.

To bypass our SPAM filters, please complete this simple math problem. *