III The State of Affairs During the 90s

With the 90s came evidence of a changing environment. The section meeting at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, April 5-6, 1991, was the first one at which an African-American member of the Section gave a plenary address. Dr. Daphne Smith, a graduate of Spelman College and a faculty member at the University of Georgia, was warmly received for her talk, ``Classes of Sets with VC Dimension'' In the audience were current Spelman students, who were also there to support one of their classmates giving a talk in the session of student papers.

Strategic planning for the Spring 1992 meeting at Kennesaw State College resulted in increased program participation and attendance by African-American students and faculty from several institutions. Dr. Sylvia Bozeman, as Governor-at-Large, had encouraged participation from traditionally minority institutions, for the Mobile meeting, with personal letters of invitation. However, these letters resulted in only small attendance by members from the local area. Clearly a more welcoming and inclusive environment was needed, with a larger effort by the Section officers and host institution organizers.

For the Spring 1992 meeting, the Kennesaw State College organizers personally invited African-American mathematicians to be speakers and session chairs. In addition, the meeting included a regional meeting of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM), a panel presentation concerning encouraging minority students in mathematics, and a SUMMA (Strengthening Underrepresented Minorities Mathematics Achievement) workshop presented by Dr. William Hawkins of the MAA. With a grant from the national MAA, a pizza lunch was held for students and MAA Student Chapter advisors. This activity and TA Rush, a graduate school fair for undergraduates, were well attended by African-American students who were encouraged by their faculty mentors to attend the meeting. This combination of activities and efforts resulted in greatly increased program participation and attendance by African-American students and faculty from several institutions.

Participation of African-American members on Section Committees and in Section offices has greatly increased in the nineties. Dr. Etta Falconer, of Spelman College, co-chaired in 1991-92 and 1992-93 the section's first committees to determine the recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award. These committees chose the section's first two award recipients. Dr. Ronald Biggers, of Kennesaw State College, joined the section nominating committee in 1992-1993 and chaired this committee in 1993-1994. Dr. Melvis Atkinson, of Kennesaw State College, joined the committee in 1994. In 1992, the Section Committee on Minority Participation was established. Dr. Wanda Patterson, of Spelman College and chair of the committee, meets with the Executive Committee of the Section as an ex officio member. In 1993, Dr. Robert Bozeman, of Morehouse College, became a Section Officer upon selection as State Director of Georgia.

Efforts to encourage African-American attendance and full participation in section meetings have continued. Dr. Amassa Fauntleroy, of North Carolina State University, was an invited, major speaker at the Spring 1994 meeting at Carson-Newman College; he was introduced by Dr. Wanda Patterson. His timely address concerned the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.

The Southeastern Section has been the birthplace of protest against discrimination on the basis of race. Confrontations here have helped to move the MAA forward in the elimination of barriers in the mathematics community, not only for African-Americans, but for women, gays and lesbians, and other minorities. Today the Southeastern Section stands as a leader and a model in its determination to encourage and promote the full participation of all of its members.

Copies of Threescore and Ten: A History of the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America; 1922-1992 can be obtained for $3 to cover mailing costs from

Professor Marcellus Waddill
Wake Forest University
Box 7388
Winston-Salem, NC 27109