The 2004 Ohio Section Award
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 PuttMarch 26, 2004