Citation for

The 2004 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 University of
Cincinnati

On Friday, March 26, 2004

On behalf of the Ohio Section, I am happy to make the presentation of our 2004 award for distinguished college or university teaching of mathematics.

This year’s winner grew up in the Cincinnati
area and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Xavier
University. In 1963, after two years in
the Army Ordinance Corps, where his job involved teaching civilian Armory
directors how to program and operate computer-controlled machine tools, he
entered academia as an instructor of mathematics at the same university he now
serves as professor of mathematics. He
earned his Ph.D. from Case-Western Reserve University in 1971 having taken a two-year
leave to complete his dissertation on differential equations.

Over the past four decades, our awardee has taught a
wide variety of courses in mathematics and computer science at both the
undergraduate and graduate levels.
According to his colleagues there is no question that he is his department’s
champion at “both enthusiasm and completeness in his promulgation of
mathematics.” They remark that he
approaches each course with extraordinary zeal, that he is both complete and
challenging and that his teaching is laced with just the right amount of
humor. They also note that his course
syllabi are legendary at his institution.
In addition, our distinguished teacher has had an enormous impact on
students through encouraging them to engage in mathematics beyond the
classroom. In this regard a colleague
notes that he is the undisputed champion of their department as he has coached
more students in presenting talks and writing papers than the rest of the
department combined.

Current and former students have high praise for his
teaching effectiveness and fond memories of the time spent in his classes. They cite as major assets his energy,
enthusiasm, organization, passion for mathematics and sense of humor. He has a reputation among them for being
demanding but fair. One wrote that he
“never underestimated a student’s ability, and didn’t let them work less than
to their potential.” A former student
indicated that our awardee showed her the process of thinking mathematically,
not just the finished product of doing mathematics. She wrote “after all these years, I can still see him creating a
table of numbers at the board, showing us how he found patterns, and giving us
a peak into the mathematical mind. … He truly enjoyed his work. In his class I learned that I, too, could
begin to think like a mathematician.
Any anxiety vanished and my own enjoyment of mathematics began to take
hold.”

This year’s awardee has also been an extremely
active participant in the mathematical community at the state and national
level. For example, he has served this
Section as Program Committee Chair, President-Elect, President, Past-President,
and Governor. However, it may be that
he is best known for having as one colleague wrote

“
given a large portion of his life to posing problems for students of the world
to work on.” Along these lines he has
served as Ohio’s Regional Exam Coordinator for the AHSME, an American
Mathematics Competitions Committee Member, an American Mathematics Competitions
Panel Member, Chair of the MAA Committee on American Mathematics Competitions,
Chair of the Committee for the AHSME and an International Mathematical Olympiad
Volunteer and Coordinator.

Harold
Putt