View from the Chair

Dr. Tom Marley

It has been a year of records for the Nebraska Department of Mathematics.

Professor Al Peterson’s achievements, as well as his completion of 50 years as a faculty member, are nothing short of remarkable. He has published over 200 research articles, supervised 32 Ph.D. students, and consistently been regarded as one of the top teachers in the Department for five decades.

In chatting with Al about his early days at Nebraska, I was reminded that his job interview in 1968 took place on the same day that Bobby Kennedy delivered a campaign speech on UNL’s campus in advance of the Nebraska primary. This anecdote brought home to me that Al’s tenure has covered some truly fascinating times and seen many changes. However, through it all, Al has been a steady beacon for excellence in research and teaching and a role model for our faculty.

The Department also hit a new milestone by graduating 19 Ph.D.s in a single calendar year, surpassing our previous high of 15 in 2015. This tremendous accomplishment is a testament to our high-quality students (almost all of who landed impressive positions in academia, industry, and government; see Pages 3 and 19) and faculty, as well as the many reforms our department has implemented, which have made our graduate program a national model. Notably, it also occurs at a time when the size of our graduate faculty is at a modern-day low (currently at 31, including faculty with full-time administrative appointments).

I also would like to mention an anniversary of sorts. As Jim Lewis notes in his article on our latest Ph.D. cohort, Albert Candy received the first Ph.D. from our department in 1898. He would later become chair of the Department from 1917-1934. Almost exactly 100 years ago, in a document dated February 15, 1919 (which he notes as the 50th anniversary of the University of Nebraska), Candy established in his will the Candy Mathematical Fellowships, 26 years before his passing. He writes that he does not desire to assist anyone “whose purpose is to get as much out of society as he can and give as little as possible in return. Hence, I [Candy] wish that everyone who accepts this Fellowship might feel under obligation to give someone, in some way, at some time, at least as much as he receives from this foundation.’’ This sentiment still resonates 100 years later.

I am pleased to say that the Candy Fund is still thriving and continues to help support our graduate program, illustrating the long-lasting impact of such gifts. As chair, my principal goal is to support our students, faculty, and staff attain excellence in their teaching, learning, and scholarship. Thanks to the generosity of Albert Candy and other donors over the years, I have the means to say “yes” more often than not when requested to support a worthy project. (A case in point is Michelle Homp’s productive trip to Senegal this past summer; see Page 9.) Every donation is highly valued and goes a long way to supporting our department’s mission. I wish all of you a very happy holiday season.

- Tom Marley