History of the Department


Class of 2012 members Mary Michael Forrester and Prashanta Kharel were this year’s recipients of the senior Hooke Prize in mathematics.  Prashanta was this year’s University Valedictorian.  Following graduation, Mary Michael is teaching English in Haiti and Prashanta is continuing the graduate work in applied physics at Columbia University that he began after his junior year at Sewanee.  Sixteen majors in mathematics or computer science graduated in May 2012.

Gaston Swindell Bruton Professor of Mathematics William McGowen Priestley (Class of ’62) retired in May 2012 after forty-five years of distinguished faculty service at Sewanee.  In April, William Dunham, Koehler Professor of Mathematics at Muhlenberg College, gave a lecture, A Celebration of Euler, honoring Professor Priestley’s contributions to the University of the South and the larger mathematical community.  During his years as a Sewanee faculty member, Dr. Priestley published two books on calculus from an historical approach and papers in analysis and the history and pedagogy of mathematics.  He was the 2006 recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award of the Southeastern Section of the MAA. 

Jared Weiss, Class of ’12, has begun a graduate program in mathematics at University of Tennessee Knoxville.  John Ingram, Class of ’12, is in the doctoral program in computer science at Clemson University continuing his work on computer vision begun during a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates there.  Michelle Brasse, Class of ’07, is using her actuarial experience to do trust fund projections for the Social Security Administration in Baltimore.  Scott Garland, Class of ‘01, is with Reynolds and Reynolds in Houston leading a team in design of software and hardware.  Ed Gerber, Class of ’00, completed his Ph.D. at Princeton and now works as a climate scientist and assistant professor in New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.  Nick Bennett, Class of ’91, earned his Ph.D. at Yale and is doing oilfield research for Schlumberger-Doll in Connecticut.  The Rev. Becca Stevens, Class of ’85, is now chaplain of St. Augustine's Episcopal Chapel at Vanderbilt University and continues as the executive director of Magdalene House, a residential community for women.  The 2012 Homecoming Lecture will be given this fall by Georgi Kapitanov (Class of ’07), who completed his doctorate in mathematics at Vanderbilt in May and is now a postdoc at Purdue.

Professor John R. Swallow, Class of ‘89, formerly Kimbrough Professor of Mathematics and Humanities at Davidson College, became Sewanee’s Provost this year following his service earlier in 2011-12 as Acting Provost; he continues to serve as an associate editor of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.  Professor Linda Bright Lankewicz, whom Professor Swallow succeeded as Provost, is on sabbatical leave to develop new courses in data mining and educational technology; she will return to full-time faculty service in the computer science program in January 2013.  Professor Emily Puckette completed five successful years as the Mathematics and Computer Science Department Chair, and Associate Professor Doug Drinen became Chair in July 2012. 

Dr. Drinen was recognized by the Society of Sewanee Scholars in 2011-12 for his innovative and compassionate approach to teaching and learning.  He was chosen to speak about his creative mathematical modeling project assignments that encourage student initiative and ingenuity.  He also gave a well-received public lecture in March on the mathematics of bracketology.

The 2012 Sewanee-Rhodes-Hendrix Mathematics Symposium was held at Rhodes College in April.  Sewanee was represented by two students and two faculty members, and senior mathematics major Martha Cook gave a talk on Ramsey Theory.  Two students and one faculty member attended the annual meeting of the Southeastern Section of the MAA.

Professor Thomas Banchoff of Brown University was the University’s 2011-12 Ebey Lecturer.  He gave two talks during his February visit, Salvador Dali’s Art, Geometry, and Theology for a University-wide audience and Distinguishing Cylinders from Moebius Bands, Smooth and Polyhedral for the department’s students and faculty.

(submitted by Joel Cunningham)