History of Our Section

A Historical Summary of Our Section by Jaccie White

I hope you are prepared for either a very long read or are preparing to take a nap. As I begin to write this history, two things stand out to me. I was born the year of the first meeting, 1968, a LONG time ago, and I am a mathematician, not a writer. Of course I am free labor so you really shouldn’t complain. The beginning of the history I have head started with Fred Zerla, who was involved before me and before the Suncoast or even the Florida section. He joined the MAA back in 1963 when Frank Cleaver invited (ordered) him to join. The 1968 meeting was held at Miami Dade Community College on the South Campus under the leadership of our Governor Dwight Goodner and Chairman Robert Meacham. Howard Taylor recorded the minutes and collected the money as the Secretary/Treasurer for that first meeting. Rumor has it that this meeting was held the year following Florida being recognized as an official Section of the Mathematical Association of America.

One of the reasons that caused the state of FL to break away from the Southeast region and become an independent section was due to changes happening when the community colleges were starting. Fred Zerla went to Florida State in 1958 for 3 years and then got a job at University of South Florida. USF had just opened; no one wanted a job so he got hired because the schools were looking for young professors to build a curriculum. Dwight Goodman at Florida State University and Harold Myers at University of Miami were forming a math curriculum for the whole state. With the start and blossoming of the community colleges they were all looking for direction of how the math curriculum should be organized. This is what brought the group together, the dynamo of guys forming the curricula. Fred sat back and listened and got quite an education from them.

Back before email and such, they would do a textbook inventory from all the schools and post it at the meetings as a way to keep the level up and also to share information about what people were doing at all the different schools. If you were teaching in one school, they did not want you to feel isolated, they wanted you to join in the conversation and have meetings all over the state. Herman Meyer was Frank Cleaver’s teacher. Charles McArthur was one of the best teachers that Fred ever had at USF. He was in the 2nd world war and wrote a book on operations research about how to fight a war on two coasts when most supplies come from the middle and have to be transported to both. His book showed the math behind it. McArthur was the department chair when Fred worked in the department as a student along with Dr. Williams. Back in the late 50s at Florida State, you wore a suit to class as a graduate student. If it was casual, you did not need a tie. A few years later at USF they were very casual.

The MAA-FL meetings progressed under the leadership of Chairman A. R. Bednarek and Vice Chair Roy Mazzagatti at Florida Atlantic University in 1969. Chair, Herman Meyer partnered with Vice Chair Bill Rice and the new Secretary /treasurer Frank Cleaver in Dwight Goodner’s last year as Governor at the 1970 meeting at Rollins College (my alma mater).

Dwight Goodner was Mike Mear’s advisor and had a good, dry sense of humor, although I cannot imagine it can beat Mike’s sense of humor. And of course, no one can beat Mike’s sense of style with his Hawaiian shirts every Friday.

The 70’s continued with chair Gene Medlin, vice chair G.W. Schultz in 1971 at the meeting Florida Southern College hosted and then in 1972 at Central Florida Community College with the new officers Paul McDougle as Chair and George Cash as Vice Chair. This was also the hear Herman Meyer became Governor of the Florida Section. Charles McArthur followed up in 1973 as chair with Ruth Wing, the first woman on the board, as Vice Chair with the meeting held at Florida Technological University.

The following year, Bill Rice came on board as 2 year VP, previously known as vice chair, under the guidance of Chair James Brooks at University of Florida along with Jake Golightly in a newly created position 4-year VP. Mike Mears remembers how much smoke Bill Rice could blow. Bill would be smoking a cigarette and lighting the next before the first was out. And of course that would be combined with going out drinking after the meetings. Bill was interviewed on some news magazine about Saint Petersburg Junior College about the number of foreign students, and he was sitting there with his cigarette. Sadly, he died of cancer in his 60s.

1975 took us to Mike Mear’s home court of Manatee Junior College with Robert Meacham as the new Governor, Ralph McWilliams as Chair, A.M. Dutton as Vice Chair, and Elizabeth Magarian as 4-year VP. We moved to Florida A&M the next year with Bill Rice returning in the position of Chairman this time along with L.R. Wirak as Vice Chair. Don Hill was the 4-Year VP followed by Tony Shershin in that position in 1977. A. W. Goodman was the chair and the textbook author, Ignacio Bello the Vice Chair on the board with Tony when the group met at the University of South Florida, Fred Zerla’s stomping ground. 1978 showed a return to the Community College Campus with the Clearwater campus of SPJC followed by the Dale Mabry Campus of HCC. Other changes included a new Governor at the 1978 meeting, Charles McArthur while Beverly Brechner took over as chair to be replaced by George Lofquist the following year. Thomas Ridley was the Vice chair followed by Roy Raines, John Leeson followed David Sherry in the 4-year VP category at the HCC meeting.

George Cash was dept. chair in 1979 at SCF and he sent Mike Mears up to USF with Fred, Bill Rice, Frank Cleaver and others to an MAA planning meeting. We wanted the Florida meeting to be a place where graduate students can give a talk because they do not want to start at a National meeting open to criticism of strangers. This was Frank’s idea, he was secretary for 13 years. Bill Rice was at Saint Petersburg Junior College Gibbs campus, he was there back in the early 70s and a mainstay of MAA.

The 80s were business as usual with the decade starting at Jacksonville University with Chair Fred Hoffman, Vice Chair Pat Dyer, and 4 year VP Bruce Edwards. From Jacksonville the group moved slightly south to Bethune Cookman. Former Chair Beverly Brechner became the first female Governor for the state while Edwin Duda supported her as the Chair and Ernie Ross entered the board as 2 year VP. Raymond Roth finished off the new officers as 4 year VP. One fond memory is of Mike Mears driving toward Ernie Ross’s house in Largo/Clearwater and 5 or 6 people got in the van to come to a meeting. Mike is the only one in his first year at Manatee Community College. In conversation, Mike said he read that the Governor is thinking of doing away with tenure. They all laughed at him and said there is talk about that from time to time and it will never happen. Also, one of the teachers at Daytona Beach Community College wanted to talk about unionizing at MCC.

The MAA/FTYCMA joined near this time as well. In March of 1980 in Daytona Beach, Ernie Ross, Mike Mears, and Bill Rice drove over. There was a Florida Junior College Teachers of Math so there was already a joint relationship. Then the 2 year group faded for a while, but has come back and it seems they have always met together. The junior college group started in 1969.

After the FL section was official in 1967 the state committee found that when they had a meeting, no matter where they held it, it would be very far from most of the state. It was always the first weekend of March so they worked with the fall for a local meeting, centered at the local universities so people can come to a meeting even if it is not a state meeting. By 1976 MAA-FL Suncoast was born with the first local meeting at UT.

Frank Cleaver asked Fred Zerla to help organize the Florida Suncoast Chapter of MAA. The problem of rule is the continuation of the rule of Machiavelli. So Frank asked Fred to help put a rule to it. At each meeting you look at the locations where it has been held and then you go to a person who is at a school and ask them to host the next year. They will be scared so you give them a list of what you should do. Fred mentioned a list he created for what needs to be done but he did not know what happened to the list but Mike said that he has the list and held it up at the 2012 meeting when these notes were collected. David Kerr has been key in continuing that tradition now.

Penny Morris from Pasco Community College said that she has been to several regional conferences and she has been once or twice to other regions like Gold Coast and Central Florida, but there is no pattern while the first Friday of December has really helped the Suncoast region with continuity.

After the second meeting, at Hillsborough Community College, the next meeting was supposed to be at USF on a Friday, but Al Goodman said we had to have it on Saturday morning and very few people came, including Al Goodman so it was switched because it was so close to Thanksgiving and the AMATYC meeting. It has since been held the first Friday of December every year, until 2010 when it did not work so we had to have it on the second Friday of December at University of Tampa due to a conflict the first Friday.

Returning to the statewide meeting records, we went to the West Campus of Valencia Community College in 1982. Robert Gilmer and Maurice Nott were chair and 2 year VP respectively while Marilyn Repsher, from Jacksonville University got started on the board at 4 year VP. The following year, Frank Cleaver’s 13 year tenure ended as Ralph McWilliams took over in the position of Secretary/Treasurer. He was joined at the Florida State University Meeting by Charles Nelson as Chair, Bettye Anne Case as Vice Chair and Roy James started a two year stretch first as 4 year VP and then continued when that position was changed to VP of Site for the 1984 year. Bettye continued with Roy under the new title of VP for Programs and Don Lichtenberg came in under the title of President rather than Chair for the meeting at the University of Tampa and we had a new Governor for our section, Don Hill. Newsletter Editor was also added at this time and Bruce Edwards served the first 6 year in this position and an additional 4 years after a one year hiatus when Robert Kalin acted as newsletter editor.

Fred Zerla made his work official in 1985 when he came aboard as VP-Programs with David Sherry as President. Bill Jordan joined the group as VP-Site and the meeting was held at Stetson University. The group just gets better and better at Seminole Community College when Mike Mears steps in as VP Site. He was joined by Secretary/treasurer Robert Kalin and the ladies, Kathy Timmer as VP-Programs and Elizabeth Magarian back as President this time.

1987, my first spring at Rollins College, brought my advisor, Jim Wahab onto the team as VP –Programs along with Ernie Ross as President and a new Governor, Robert Gilmer. They worked with Dennis Kletzing as VP-site for the conference held at Florida Atlantic University. I was blessed in 1988 because that spring brought the conference to my school when Rollins hosted the meeting so I was able to attend my first MAA-FL meeting. Fred Zerla again supported the MAA when he was elected as president at this meeting while Ignacio Bello returned as VP-Programs working with Linda Smith as VP-Site.

Little did I know that in 1989 a future advisor of mine, Lee Armstrong was president of the MAA-FL section. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Lee until he attended some Higher Education Consortium Executive Board meetings for an NSF grant to train local college mathematics faculty that I was directing at UCF a decade later. He also served on my dissertation committee before retiring. The National Service Award winner, Marilyn Repsher returned to the MAA-FL board as VP for programs this same year with Paul McDougle as VP-Site.

1990 brought with it the election of a new governor, David Sherry. He worked with president James Weaver, VP-Programs Dennis Kletzing and the new VP-site, Mary Holton. Jim Wahab returned to the board for a single year as Newsletter editor before his Rollins colleague, David Kurtz took over for 3 years. This was followed by a third faculty member from Rollins, Mark Anderson, who spent the next 8 years in this position. More consistency was added to the board when Ernie Ross stepped in to work with Robert Kalin for a year in the Secretary/Treasurer position before assuming the role for the next 9 years with the last 6 shared by June White from St. Petesburg Junior College. Orlando was showing their commitment to the MAA-FL with the officers and also the meeting hosted at Valencia Community College on the West campus. The 1991 board was rounded out with Bettye Anne Case as President, Kermit Sigmon as VP-programs, and June White from St. Petersburg Junior College as VP of site.

In 1992 we saw Marilyn Repsher of Jacksonville University on the board again, as president this time with Walter Walker from Eckerd College. The women of the section stayed active with Kitty N. Myers in the VP-Site position at the conference held in Scott’s stomping grounds of University of North Florida. The following year Lee Armstrong from the University of Central Florida, where the annual conference was held, was elected to serve as Governor of the Florida section with Bruce Edwards as President, Chris Cosner as VP-Programs, and Rheta Beaver as VP-Site.

Hawaiian shirts appeared at the board meetings when Mike Mears was elected to VP-Programs in 1994 where we had a conference hosted by the split team of Daytona Beach Community College and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Dennis Kletzing was president with Leonard Lipkin, from University of North Florida as VP-site. The connection to University of North Florida continued into 1995 when Scott Hochwald joined the team as VP-Programs. He worked with Rheta Beaver as President and Shiv Aggarwal as VP-Site when we went back to Valencia Community College, the east campus this time.

UNF maintained their presence on the board with Leonard returned as president to work with the new governor, Fred Hoffman. We saw a few new faces on the board at that time when Moana Karsteter was elected to VP-Programs and Gerald Junevicus to VP-Site. The meeting was held at a Florida Power Corporation building across the street from SPJC on 34th St. S in St. Petersburg that year and gave me the opportunity to visit my future husband who lived in St. Petersburg. I left Brevard Community College, was married, and moved to St. Petersburg in 1997. While that excitement was happening in my life, David Kerr was jumping on board as VP-Site with Joe Mott as VP-Programs and Don Hill in the President position as they all traveled north to Florida State University.

In 1998 the conference was held at Florida Atlantic University. As I was starting teaching at Saint Leo University, Chuck Lindsaywas getting involved with the MAA board as VP-programs and preparing to host the conference at Florida Gulf Coast Community College the following spring. Shiv Aggarwal returned to the board in the position of President this time, with Janice Campbell as VP-Site. For the conference at FGCU, Mike Mears returned as president with Judy Jones as VP-Site and Ken Pothoven as VP-Site. Ken would return two years later to serve a 3 year term as Secretary Treasurer. This was also the year we elected Fred Zerla as our Governor. During Fred’s second year he returned the favor by hosting the 2000 annual meeting at USF where Walter Walker returned in the position of President with Phil Novinger as VP-Programs and Janice McFatter as VP-site.

While we had participation from the big universities, the board added a new position, Coordinator of Student Activies and Ben Fusaro from FSU filled that role for the first 4 years. June White, from SPJC stepped up to President and David Kerr took his first round as VP-Programs. Debbie Garrison, from Valencia Community College completed the board as VP-Site. The meeting was hosted at the newly formed Florida Gulf Coast University. 2002 led us to Sante Fe Community College Where Marilyn Repsher was elected Governor. Chuck Lindsay returned and claimed the President position, with Marcelle Bessmen, from Jacksonville University as VP-Programs and we had Saint Leo University start a long term representation on the board through Siamack Bondari as VP-Site.

Although my ramblings are present throughout this history, I officially become a part of the MAA-FL history in 2003 as VP-Programs. I had the pleasure to work with the person I considered my mentor, David Kerr now the president. Another face who has continued to support the Florida section for decades is Scott Hochwald who joined us as VP-Site and Bill Rush from SPJC began his 6 year reign as Newsletter Editor recording out meeting at Jacksonville University. With Judy Jones as president in 2004, it is no surprise that the conference was held in her hometown at University of Central Florida, right around the corner from her campus of VCC. The board had a brief representation of the south with Lubomir Markov as VP-Programs and Stephanie Fichett as VP-Site while Joe Skala from SPJC accepted the 2 year position of Secretary/Treasurer for 3 years, sharing his 3rd year with Manatee Community College’s (State College of Florida) John Waters who continued that position for a total of 8 years. The position of Coordinator of Student Activities also received some consistency with Dan Jelsovsky from Florida Southern College filling that role for 5 years. Just to make sure MCC was well represented, John Waters also acted as VP-Site and the conference was held here. Pam Crawford put together the program while Scott Hochwald took over the presidency. David Kerr was elected the Governor of the Florida Section too round out the officers in 2005. The 2006 moved further south to the Jupiter campus of Florida Atlantic University with Project NEXT participant, Stephanie Fitchett as President, Guesna Dohrman as VP-Site and the always amusing problem solver from Polk Community College, Li Zhou as VP-Programs. Not to be outdone, Jacci White returned as President in 2007 when the conference moved north to Tallahassee Community College. I was supported by Eduardo Fernandez as VP-Site and Joel Berman as VP-Programs. This led to a big year of change in 2008 when the position of Webmaster was created and has been held ever since by Altay Özgener from MCC (SCF). Stephanie Fitchett briefly held the newsletter editor position, being relieved by Jacci White for one issue when she left the state, to be taken over by David Kerr for the remainder of our current history. Eduardo Fernandez and Scott Hochwald also stayed involved as VP-Programs and Governor respectively. Lubomir Markov returned as President while Pam Crawford, from Jacksonville University joined the group as VP-site at the conference site of Florida Southern College.

In 2009 the conference returned to Florida Gulf Coast University with Joel Berman on the slate for President, David Kerr returning for a second round as VP-Programs and Bettina Capuano as VP-Site. The women took over at Santa Fe College in 2010 with Pam Crawford leading the way as President, Monika Vo (Kiss) from Saint Leo University as VP-Programs, Daniela Genova as VP-Site and Julie Francavilla’s team of women from SCF running the Student Activities for the next 3 years. VCC-East brought no new faces as Mike Mears returned to the board as Governor, Chuck Lindsey returned as President, Daniela Genova returned as VP-Programs and I (Jacci White) returned as VP-Site. We did have a few new faces in 2012 at UNF with Joni Pirnot from State College of Florida joining the group as VP-Site and Sidra Van de Car from VCC joining forces as VP-Programs while Monika Vo returned in her new role as President. There were no new faces in 2013 since the new coordinator of student activities, Janet Samuels, had been a standing member of the team, Scott Hochwald returned as VP-Site, Jacci White did a second term as VP-Programs, and Daniela Genova was elected to the president position.

After hosting the Suncoast regional meeting in 2011, University of Tampa hosted the Statewide meeting in 2013 where I continued on the board when elected Governor, Joni returned to the board as VP-Programs and Sidra became the president. The ladies were joined by Penny Morris from Polk State College as VP-site who selected Saint Leo University to host the 2016 meeting following the Centennial meeting in 2015 at Eckerd College. Preparing for the Centennial meeting are Scott Hochwald as president with two new faces including Brian Camp from Saint Leo University for VP-Programs and Angela Angeleska from University of Tampa as VP-Site who were elected at the 2014 meeting at Edison State College.

If you have stories and memories to add to the narrative so please send them to Jacci White. Thanks.