Professor Gary Gordon honored for excellence in teaching mathematics

Trang Le

The annual Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego honored professor Gary Gordon, head of the math department, earlier this month for the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award from the Mathematics Association of America. It’s bestowed upon college educators “who have been widely recognized as extraordinarily successful and whose teaching effectiveness has been shown to have had influence beyond their own institutions,” according to the MAA website.

The same day Gordon could have been in San Diego receiving his award, he was participating in another award ceremony at a high school in Madagascar with the Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education program.

“The big joint meeting was in San Diego this year, and that’s where the award was given out. But I was unable to go because I was in Madagascar teaching for a Lafayette program,” Gordon said.

Three recipients are chosen for the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award each year. The process for nomination consists of two steps, one at regional level and one at national level.

“The MAA is broken up into 29 local regions, and every year each region chooses a teacher of the year. Those names advance to the next level, and three of the people who won the local award are chosen for the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award,” Gordon said.

According to Gordon, receiving this award was the result of a combination of various works and contributions.

“I’ve had a problem column for the MAA journal. I’ve co-authored two books that are introduction to different subjects. I also run the REU program, where students from all over the place, small and big universities, apply to do research with Lafayette each summer,” Gordon said.

“I was a little embarrassed, actually,” Gordon said, describing how he felt upon hearing the news of his award. “You know when somebody would make a big fuss over you and say, ‘Oh you’re so wonderful,’ when you achieve something, it makes you feel kind of embarrassed. I think it doesn’t really change when you grow up.”

Prior to receiving the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award, Gordon was nominated for the James P. Crawford Award, which he dubbed the “local version” of the prestigious MAA award, by a colleague in his department.

With his visions as department head, Gordon also acknowledges the positive impact of his newly-gained award on the math department.

“I’d say the real big positive thing is that these awards typically shine a light on different math departments nationally. This is the first time Lafayette’s math department has somebody winning this, so it makes us look good on a national scale,” Gordon said.