Archives - Narrative History

Chapter 3: The Upper New York State Section of the Mathematical Association of America - A 25 year history: 1940-1965

For a number of years prior to 1940 the departments of mathematics at Syracuse, Hamilton, and Colgate met twice yearly for a Saturday afternoon meeting followed by dinner. Professor Walter B. Carver, president of the M.A.A. during 1939-40, sometime in the fall of 1939 sent letters to many Association members in New York State in order to learn what the general sentiment was about the formation of a section. The response apparently was favorable. In the spring of 1940, Professor C. W. Munshower wrote the mathematics departments of all colleges in the state inviting them to an organizational meeting. This meeting was held at Colgate University on Saturday Math 11, 1940 with 96 persons including 43 M.A.A. members present. Professor H. T. R. Aude of Colgate presided at the morning session; Professor F. F. Decker of Syracuse presided at the afternoon session; Professor W. M. Carruth of Hamilton presided at the dinner; and Professor W. B. Carver presided at the business meeting. At this business meeting it was soon decided to submit a petition to the Board of Governors requesting permission to establish a section. The 43 M.A.A. members present signed this petition. A proposed set of By-Laws had been prepared, and was adopted subject to approval of the Board of Governors. Officers elected for 1940-41 were: Chairman, Professor H. M. Gehman, University of Buffalo; Vice-Chairman, Professor A. D. Campbell, Syracuse University; Secretary, Professor C. W. Munshower, Colgate University.

During the year the Chairman, Professor Gehman, appointed a great number of committees, each with many members, in order to have as many members as possible become active in the affairs of the section.

The second meeting of the Section was held at Cornell University on Saturday May3, 1941 with some 90 persons in attendance. Professors Patterson of Hamilton and Seidlin of Alfred presided at scientific sessions, and Professor Carver presided at the dinner. At the business meeting, with Professor Gehman presiding, the following officers for 1941-42 were elected: Chairman, Professor A. D. Campbell, Syracuse University; Vice-Chairman, Professor D. S. Morse, Union College; Secretary, Professor C. W. Munshower, Colgate University. The next meeting was scheduled for May 2, 1942 at the University of Rochester.

But these were war years. The meeting was first postponed until the fall of 1942, and then finally cancelled. Not until 1947 did the times permit meetings to be held again. The first post-war meeting was held at the University of Rochester on Saturday May 10, 1947, attracting some 100 persons including 41 members of the M.A.A. Dean W. H. Durfee of Hobart and Professor C. W. Watkeys of Rochester presided at sessions. Officers elected were: Chairman, Profesor D. S. Morse, Union College; Vice-Chairman, Professor E. B. Allen, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Secretary, Professor C. W. Munshower, Colgate University.

After this meetings were held regularly each year. Professor Munshower continued as Secertary until 1950. Professor N. G. Gunderson of the University of Rochester was elected Secretary in 1950, and continued in this office until 1967, when Professor Mary Williams of Skidmore College was elected. Each year the Vice-Chairman was duly elected Chairman for the next year, as provided in the by-laws, with the pattern being interrupted only twice. In 1956 Colonel Bessell of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point had been elected Vice-Chairman, but found he had to resign for personal reasons. Professor E. Haskins of Clarkson College of Technology was appointed his successor by the Executive Committee. In 1962 Professor R. Beinert of Hobart College had been elected Vice-Chairman. His tragic illness prevented him from succeeding to the post of Chairman, so Professor A. Fox of Union College was elected Chairman for 1963-64.

At the 1949 meeting a Committee to Study the Relation of Secondary School and College Mathematics in N.Y. State was appointed with Professor M.F. Rosskopf of Syracuse University as Chairman. After the report of this committee at the meeting of April 22, 1950, the Section voted to request the M.A.A. to provide financial support for the work of the committee. This was provided, and helped support the Committee as it joined with others at a meeting in Syracuse in May 1950 at which the Association of Mathematics Teachers of N.Y. State was organized. The Committee was finally dissolved in 1952.

At the 1951 meeting a committee to study the possibilities of sponsoring a contest for high school students was authorized. In 1952 L. Scholl reported for the committee on a contest in the Buffalo area sponsored by the Buffalo public schools. Several upstate schools began using the contest materials of the Metropolitan M.A.A. Section. Then after the Board of Governors established a national contest at the Summer 1956 meeting, the Section at its 1957 meeting authorized the creation of an Upstate N.Y. Contest Committee. Professor Nura Turner [of the New York State College for Teachers at Albany] was appointed chairman of this committee, and has remained its chairman ever since. The annual contest has become one of the major activities of the Section.

The Executive Committee, consisting of the three officers of the Section and the Sectional Governor, was created by a resolution at the 1954 meeting. The first assigned duly of the Executive Committee was to prepare a revision of the By-Laws of the Section. This was done, and new By-Laws were adopted at the 1955 meeting.

Over the years various committees with titles such as the Committee on Strengthening Mathematics in the Section, the Committee to Study Certification Requirements, the Committee on Special Projects, the Committee on Community Colleges, etc. were created to study various matters of interest to the Section.

The Section has enjoyed a steady growth, from the initial 43 members in 1940 to 951 in 1965. Attendance at the yearly meeting has usually run between 100 and 150, and in a few cases, somewhat more. Programs have consisted of expository papers, research reports, panel discussions, films, papers on teaching and curriculum problems, demonstrations of models, position papers, reports of committees, etc.

As the Section enters its second twenty-five years, it does so with growing membership, a new Undergraduate Paper contest, a new Undergraduate Paper contest, and a trial period of fall as well as spring meetings.

N. G. Gunderson December 1967

[This was written by Norman G. Gunderson after his term as Secretary-Treasurer of the Section.]