Citation for

The 2003 Ohio Section Award for

Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics

Presented at the spring meeting of the Ohio Section of the

Mathematical Association of America

At The Ohio State University

On Friday, April 4, 2003

On behalf of the Ohio Section, I am happy to make the presentation of our 2003 Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

This year's winner is a native Ohioan, from Toledo, who earned his BS degree in Education with a concentration in mathematics from Bowling Green State University in 1967. He completed an MA in mathematics at the University of Colorado and returned to teach high school mathematics in Toledo for three years. He then resumed his studies, completing the Ph.D. in analysis at Colorado State University in 1974. Except for a post-doctoral year and a few visiting positions out of state, he has spent the rest of his teaching career in Ohio, which includes a nine-year term as chair of his department.

Over the past two decades, he has taught a wide variety of courses, over three dozen distinct ones, ranging in level from developmental mathematics and various precalculus courses through advanced calculus and complex variables, and in breadth from the core areas of mathematics to courses such as mathematics for elementary teachers, history of mathematics, number theory, mathematical logic, operations research, numerical analysis, and several computer language and data structures courses. A colleague asserts that "he is an excellent teacher. He has a genuine concern for the success of all mathematics students and gives freely of his time to assist them and to encourage them. He is able to stimulate an excitement in mathematics in students at all levels, from the senior mathematics major to the freshman student struggling with a required mathematics course." Indeed, the students in his classes, both majors and non-majors, give him excellent ratings as a teacher, in spite of the fact that his classes are not known to be easy.

His students cite as major assets his enthusiasm for mathematics, his humorous attitude in class, and his availability to students. One student states that "he challenges you to not only work to get an answer, but to understand the concepts behind the problem." Another student, who barely survived the fifth grade and entered college as an adult, had understandable fear when she entered her first calculus course. She said that "each day I watched closely as he answered the many questions of the other students with patience and a funny but warm smile. I often walked by his office and watched him as he helped other students. In the days that followed, I noticed as he handed back quizzes and homework that he gave each student a friendly smile, pat on the back, and hearty congratulations on a job well done; and when he reached a student who hadn’t done well, he offered words of encouragement. The true litmus test came when one day I blurted out a question. He just smiled his funny smile and answered the question. More questions followed until I found myself asking every question that came to my mind." This student recently graduated with honors in mathematics, physics, and secondary education integrated science, and entered a graduate program in applied mathematics with a full tuition assistantship.

Our awardee has also been active over the years in the Ohio Section: he founded the MAA student chapter and organized a few MAA short courses at his school, has given several talks at our meetings, including one this afternoon, and has published a number of papers accessible to students in the various MAA journals, including one in the latest issue of The College Mathematics Journal. When he was assigned to facilitate the mathematics Senior Seminar for the spring 1998 semester, he challenged his students to give a talk at an Ohio Section meeting, rather than just to their Mathematics Department. Twenty-two students met the challenge — and students from that school have given talks at every meeting since, including ten student talks at this meeting.

He has also been active in outreach efforts during his career: as a presenter of several summer workshops for high school teachers, as a frequent speaker at junior and senior high schools, as a coach for the local Math Counts team, as an organizer of a local mathematics contest for high school students, and as an AP calculus grader for nine years.

And he has won the University Academic Mentor Award (2000) and the TKE Apollo Teaching Award (2000). Tonight we honor Professor Thomas P. Dence of Ashland University with our Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.


Thomas Gantner
Teaching Award Committee
April 4, 2003