1998 Ohio Section Award for
Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Thomas A. Hern
Bowling Green State University

Thomas Hern of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green OH, is the seventh recipient of the prestigious MAA Ohio Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. He is shown here with former students who were in attendance at the presentation.


Left: Harold Putt, Ohio Northern; Lisa Elderbrock, Northern Kentucky U.; Janet Roll, Findlay.
Right: John Zimmerman, Ohio U.-Lancaster; Scotty Thompson, NKU.

The award was presented during the Spring Section Meeting held at John Carroll University in Cleveland. The award is presented to those who are widely recognized as successful teachers, have an influence in their teaching of mathematics beyond their own institutions and foster curiosity and excitement about mathematics in their students.

During the course of his career, Dr. Hern has satisfied all of these criteria. Examples of his extraordinary teaching success include being twice recognized for the annual award for "Excellence in Teaching Mathematics” by students in his department as well as being nominated four times for a university wide Master Teacher Award. Furthermore, in surveys of Arts and Sciences seniors, he was routinely cited as “the professor who contributed most significantly to their educational development."

Colleagues and students mention repeatedly the unbelievable amount of time he devotes to class preparations and how accessible he is. One student wrote, "He was always in his office and willing to talk. He would put down whatever he was doing to help me." Dr. Hern has also inspired students to the degree that they have pursued an academic career in mathematics. One past student, now a mathematics professor wrote, "As a student I was impressed by his clear, unhurried, concise teaching presentations. He motivated topics through examples, a style I still strive to emulate in my own teaching." Another wrote, "As a colleague, he is the one I seek out whenever I have a problem, and he is the one I always make a point of visiting whenever I return to Ohio."

Dr. Hern has been a trailblazer and advocate for technology the classroom, but at the same time cautions against its inappropriate use. Prior to the advent of graphing calculators, he created, with Cliff Long, computer generated slides and super-8 movies. He is notorious for making and using models for classroom demonstrations. Exploiting the latest technologies, he encourages his students to solve interesting problems, like finding the volume of a Christmas tree using Maple.

In addition to his excellent teaching record, Dr. Hern has extended his influence beyond his institution through his publishing of numerous articles like "Gaussian Elimination in Integer Arithmetic: An Application of the L-U Factorization" inThe College Mathematics Journal, as well as "Viewing Some Concepts and Applications in Linear Algebra" (with Cliff Long), in Visualization in Teaching and Learning Mathematics of the MAA Notes Series.

During 1982-84, he was a visiting professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill working on the molecular graphics project. His scholarship serves as the bedrock for strong teaching.

Finally, Hern has been exceptionally active in the Ohio Section of the MAA. A member since 1970, he has served as President, handled local arrangements for meetings and short courses, and served as Chair of the Program Committee. He is also the founder and current Webmaster and is now serving as the newsletter editor.

Dr. Hern received his Ph.D. in 1969 from The Ohio State University in probability theory. He has been an active member of the Bowling Green State University faculty since then. This year, Dr. Hern will take advantage of the Early Retirement Incentive Program, but he will stay on campus to teach part-time as well as remain active in the Ohio Section. In addition to keeping in touch with his proteges, he enjoys reading, photography, attending classical music concerts at the Toledo Peristyle, and is a regular globe trotter. Trips abroad have included visits to Kenya, Europe, Egypt, and he was a member of the 1983 MAA Delegation to the Peoples Republic of China.