Walter Harrington

by H. Sagan
(From 1981-1982 Harrelson News)

(The following is an almost verbatim transcript of an impromptu speech, made by Professor Hans Sagan at a meeting of the full professors of the Mathematics Department on March 29, 1982, after some unruly backbenchers had been admonished and told to sit by the chairman [E. Burniston].)

Thus spoke Professor Sagan:

We are all aware that Walter Harrington is going to retire at the end of this academic year. What many of us do not know and what has only recently come to my attention is that Walter plans to be away from our campus for the entire year that is to follow. Since this is the last meeting of the full professors during this academic year, I find it fitting and appropriate to say a few words in honor and recognition of the retiree.

Walter Harrington came to North Carolina State University in 1957 as a full professor, which, if my arithmetic is correct, means that he gave this University a total of 25 years of uninterrupted service. Little did he know in 1941 when he wrote a thesis in Number Theory under Rosser at Cornell University, that he would wind up doing research in exterior ballistics and rocketry, and that he would publish on such mundane subjects as Orthogonal Functions, Mellin Transforms, Stress on Infinite Wedges (being and infinite wedge ought to be stress enough!) and Temperature Distributions. He has done all of that and much more.

While at North Carolina State University, he was actively engaged in all facets of our academic life: he taught and advised undergraduate and graduate students, supervised M.S. and Ph.D. theses, and served at one time or other on almost every imaginable committee, with the possible exception of the coffee and doughnuts committee. Since 1976, he had served in an administrative capacity as Assistant Head of the Mathematics Department.

On March 28, 1978, near the end of the most tumultuous year in the history of our department, he became Acting Head and held this position- for several minutes, when the resigned department head "unresigned" to the surprise of all and the consternation of most, having allegedly been told that he had resigned "for the wrong reasons."

In 1979, he was called upon again to take the helm of the leaking and creaking departmental ship. This time, he held on and brought us back on a even keel with minimal losses. I am not quite sure that Walter is fully aware of the implications his leaving has on those of us who are left: for one, it makes Struble the Granddaddy of the Mathematics Department, and, for another, it leaves - oh horror- yours truly in the number two position of seniority. Walter, what can I say" Thank you for being such a steady and balancing force in our department for a full quarter of a century.

(The speech was accentuated by a thunderous standing ovation for Professor Harrington.)

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