Mathematics Department from 1957 to 1967


The Cell Years


John Wesley Cell was selected to head the Department of Mathematics when Hilbert Fisher retired in 1957.

John W. Cell
(Photo from Archives, UA #23.5)
John Cell attended Kansas City Junior College and earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois. Before coming to N. C. State in 1935, he taught at the University of Illinois, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas.

Cell played a significant role in getting approval for the Masters program in Engineering Mathematics in 1947 and the Bachelor of Engineering Mathematics program in 1956. He was active in research and had an ongoing sponsored research program in rocket science.

In 1943, Dr. Cell was honored as the first recipient of the Faculty Award by the NC State chapter of Tau Beta Pi. In 1967 he received an Outstanding Teacher Award.

The increased number of students led to a reorganization of the administration of the department. Howard Nahikian was appointed as graduate administrator, Carey Mumford was put in charge of the undergraduate courses for engineers, Hubert Park handled the undergraduate courses for non-engineers and Bob Winton took on the task of supervising the Engineering Mathematics undergraduate program. Professor Maltbie, recognized by all as an excellent teacher, was put in charge of supervising the teaching assistants.

In the fall of 1957 a superior student program was inaugurated for engineering students with marked ability in mathematics. Students in this two year program were taught in special sections which went more deeply into the subject matter than was possible in the regular sections. In Cell's words "Those schools and colleges with sufficient vision to rescue the able students from boredom and stagnation and to provide a realistic and challenging program for them must be followed by all the rest."

John Cell did not attempt to run the department as a democracy. He was clearly the one in charge. He was full of energy and enthusiasm. Yet he was a gentle man (and a gentleman) who gave encouragement and help to the faculty, particularly the younger faculty.

Cell carried his enthusiasm into the classroom. When he taught, chalk dust would fly everywhere. John Bishir, who observed some of Cell's lectures, used to worry that he would get so much chalk on his glasses that he wouldn't be able to see anything.

Cell was a great believer in seminars and he insisted that all faculty and graduate students go to them. Attendance averaged around 70. Any faculty or graduate students missing a seminar would likely get a phone call or a memo from Cell reminding them gently, but forcefully, of the importance of attending seminars.

Cell teaching the Slide Rule

In 1960 the School of Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics (now College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences) was formed, consisting of departments of mathematics, chemistry, physics and experimental statistics. The first Dean was Arthur Clayton Menius. Finally the Mathematics Department had found a true home. One might have expected that there would be some opposition to the formation of this school from the University at Chapel Hill, but this did not occur. However, there was some controversy concerning the new school of Humanities which also started in 1959. A chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the National Honorary Society in Mathematics, was established at NC State in 1960.

Pi Mu Epsilon was founded in 1914 at Syracuse University and currently has over 300 chapters at colleges and universities throughout the United States. The purpose of Pi Mu Epsilon is the promotion of scholarly activity in mathematics among the students in academic institutions. Membership is not restricted to math majors. Jim Wilson was faculty advisor for the NC State Chapter from 1960 to 1980, Bob Silber took over until he retired in 2002. Hien Tran has looked after the program since then.

The Undergraduate degree program was changed from Engineering Mathematics to Applied Mathematics in 1961. One of Cell's principal goals was to establish a Ph.D. program in Applied Mathematics. Approval for the program was obtained in 1962. The first Ph.D.s graduated in 1964; there were a total of six awarded: Jack Levine had two students (Joel Brawley and Robert Dalton), Rai Struble had two (John Heinbockel and Thomas Proctor) and John Cell had two (Jerry Roberts and John Welch)

Cell made many important additions to the faculty to support the Ph.D. program and the undergraduate teaching responsibilities of the faculty.

Cell met Walter Harrington (Ph.D., Cornell University, 1941) while working on Rocket Science during WWII. In 1957 he convinced Walter to join the faculty at State. Walter said "Cell made me an offer (a full professorship) I couldn't refuse." Walter was active in research in orthogonal functions, rocket science and fracture mechanics. He published over two dozen research papers and had 4 Ph.D. students. Harrington served as Acting Department Head in 1979-80 and Assistant Department head from 1976 until he retired in 1982. (See also "1977-1980.html")

Raimond Struble got his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1951 and came to NCSU in 1958. Struble was instrumental in establishing the Ph.D. program in Applied Mathematics. He published more than 70 research articles and the influential graduate text Nonlinear Differential Equations. He produced 12 Ph.D. students. His research was funded by the U. S. Army for 14 years. In 1970 Struble was appointed to the prestigious position of University Professor. He retired in 1987.

James Wilson was the recipient of a Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1957 and joined the department the same year. He contributed greatly to the department and the university at large. Wilson was chairman of the Faculty Senate in 1974-75 and served as Assistant Head and then Associate Head of the Department from 1978 until 1986. In the words of E. E.courses taken by liberal arts students. She was a dedicated teacher until her retirement in 1975. "While any administrator has to frequently say 'no' to a student's request, Jim Wilson is one of the very few who has the ability to do so in such a way that the student feels good about it." He received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1968. Wilson served as faculty advisor for Pi Mu Epsilon from 1960 until 1980. He retired in 1987.

Thelma J. Caraway became a member of the mathematics department in 1959. She received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1970. Unfortunately she died prematurely in 1974.

Leroy B. Martin, Jr., a Raleigh native, obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1958. He worked at IBM before joining the Mathematics Department in 1961. He served as Director of the Computing Center (later Assistant Provost for University Computing) from 1968 until 1983. During this time Martin continued to teach one mathematics course each Spring. He returned to full time teaching in the mathematics department in 1983. Even after his retirement in 1996, Martin continued to teach part-time. In 1999 Dr. Martin and his wife Charlotte M. Martin endowed two scholarships and a teaching effectiveness program. In 2008 Martin was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the college of PAMS. In addition, Jim Goodnight from SAS, in recognition of Dr. Martin's contributions to mathematics at NC State, endowed the "LeRoy Martin Distinguished Professorship." This is the first privatedly endowed chair in the department.

Hans Sagan earned his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in 1950. He was on the faculty of the University of Idaho and Montana State University before coming to NC State as a full professor in 1963. Sagan had a sponsored research project on Optimal Control from NASA from 1965 to 1974 and had six Ph.D. students. Sagan produced nine books and numerous research and expository articles. His latest book was a treatise on Space Filling Curves. From 1963 to 1973 he was Associate Editor of the Mathematics Magazine. Sagan was a member and secretary of the MAA Committee on the National Mathematics Contest. He also was a popular lecturer for MAA. In 1994 he was elected to the scientific advisory board of the Manatshefte für Mathematik. Sagan was editor of the Harrelson ν's from 1978 until 1986. He retired in January 1994.

Kwangil Koh came to State in 1964 after getting his Ph.D. from UNC at Chapel Hill. His research is in ring theory, number theory, group theory and topological algebra. During his career Koh wrote one book, more than 70 research papers and supervised 11 Ph.D. theses. Koh was a leading force in establishing algebra as a research area in the department. In 2002 a Mid Atlantic Algebra Conference was held in honor of the retirement of Kwangil Koh and Jiang Luh. Koh was on phased retirement at the time and retired fully in 2004.

John Bishir received a Ph.D. in Statistics from NC State in 1961. He has been on the faculty of the mathematics department since 1957 except for one year at Florida State in 1961-62. Bishir has helped develop many courses for the biological and social sciences. He has written one textbook, over 30 research papers, and supervised 5 doctoral students. Since 1989 his research has been sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service. Bishir received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1968. He retired in 2003 but continued teaching and research.

Robert Savage obtained his undergraduate and Masters degrees in mathematics from NC State. He became a member of the faculty in 1964. Savage and Maltbie ran the "proctorial system"' of instruction for many years. This led Savage to start an Audio-Visual Tutorial Center with the help of an NSF grant. This Center has been very successful (it has been renamed the Multi-Media Center). Savage served as Assistant Dean of PAMS from 1987 to 1997 where he helped to establish "summer camps" for mathematics and science students. He received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1987. Savage retired in 2000.

Richard Chandler got his doctorate from Florida State University in 1963 and came to State in 1965. He was the department's first topologist. He wrote several books and many research papers in Topology and Computer Graphics and supervised 4 Ph.D. students. Chandler served as Graduate Administrator from 1973 until 1985. He received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1993. Chandler took over the "Mathematics Magic Show" from Robert Silber and gave a large number of performances throughout the State. He retired in 2002. Since his retirement Chandler has collaborated on two booklets on North Carolina Fossils.

H. Robert van der Vaart (Ph.D., Leiden University) joined NC State in 1962 with a joint appointment with Statistics. He published over fifty papers in statistics and theoretical biology. He was named Drexel Professor of Biomathematics in 1974 and received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1975.

Donald Hansen received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962 and came to NC State the same year. His research interest was algebra and he published 10 papers on partially-ordered algebraic systems. Hansen introduced the first undergraduate course in number theory in 1969 and taught it almost every year until he retired in 1996. In 1984 E. E. Burniston, the head of the department, asked Hansen to be Building Liaison for Harrelson Hall. He did a superb job watching over Harrelson Hall and making sure everything was in working order. Whenever a conference or special meeting was held in Harrelson, Hansen was there to see that everything was going smoothly. He handled this task until his retirement. However in 1997, after being retired for only one year, Hansen agreed to return as Building Liaison and handled this responsibility until the department moved into SAS Hall in 2009.

Oscar Wesler (Ph.D., Stanford University) came to NC State in 1964 with a joint appointment in the Mathematics and Statistics Departments. His specialty was probability. He received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1967.

Ernest Burniston is a native of England. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of London in 1962 and came to NC State in 1965. His research was in fracture mechanics and transport theory; he wrote over 30 research papers and supervised 3 Ph.D. students. Burniston served as Head of the Mathematics Department from 1980 to 1989 and, above and beyond the call of duty, served another term as Department Head from 1999 until he retired in 2002. (See also Dept. History 1980-1989)

Joe Marlin left Bell Labs and came to State in 1964 as an instructor in the department while he worked on his Ph.D. under Struble. He finished his Ph.D. in 1965. Marlin's research was in non-linear differential equations. He wrote 10 papers and supervised 12 M.S. students and 2 Ph.D. Students. He served as Associate Head of the Department from 1987 to 1994. His main responsibilities were scheduling and advising the department head on computing. In his own words "I am the primary person to blame for the introduction of MAPLE usage in the calculus courses."' Marlin retired in 2000.

Dennis Garoutte came to NC State in 1966 and finished his Ph.D. from Montana State University in 1967. He was Assistant Department Head from 1987 until 1989 and Associate Department Head from 1989 to 1996. He served as coordinator of instruction and was responsible for organization and scheduling of courses. He handled student and faculty problems fairly and always `kept his cool'. Garoutte received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1986. He retired in 2001.

John Kolb joined the faculty in 1966 after getting his Ph.D from the University of Maryland. He had a joint appointment with the Mathematics and Science Education Department. Kolb has written several texts for high school and junior high school teachers in addition to his numerous research publications. He has supervised 18 doctoral students in Mathematics Education. Kolb won an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1968 and an Alumni Distinguished Professor Award in 1978. He retired in 2003.

Cell met Ian Sneddon, a distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow University, on one of his trips to England in connection with rocket science. In 1960, Cell invited Sneddon to come to N.C. State as a distinguished lecturer and later Sneddon was appointed an Adjunct Professor. Each spring, for about ten years, Sneddon traveled to N.C. State to lecture on fracture mechanics and consult with the Applied Mathematics Research Group. There were also many exchanges of students and faculty between Glasgow and NC State during this period.

J. M. A. Danby (Ph.D., Manchester University) was for a time, a professional musician, the first chair oboist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Danby arrived on the NC State campus in 1965. The minor planet Danby was named after him by the International Astronomical Union in recognition of his contributions to the study of Celestial Mechanics. He authored books on Celestial Mechanics and the use of computers in the study of Differential Equations. Danby received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1979 and an Alumni Distinguished Professorship in 1987. He retired in 1999.

Paul Nickel (Ph.D., UCLA, 1959) joined the faculty in 1965. His research was in function theory. He supervised two Ph.D. students at State and in addition, was Dennis Garoutte's Ph.D. adviser (Garoutte got his degree from Montana State University while an instructor at NC State). Nickel retired in 1989.

William G. Dotson graduated from our sister institution in Chapel Hill with a Ph.D. in 1968. He began at State in 1965 as an instructor while he completed his doctoral work. His research area was functional analysis. Dotson published over 25 research papers and supervised 3 Ph.D. students before his promising career was cut short by illness. He died in 1988.

Harvey Charlton (Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 1966) was hired by John Cell in 1966. Since 1994 Charlton has been performing a variety of administrative duties. He is Scheduling Officer, Transfer Officer, in charge of homework graders and Director of the Summer School. Since 2000 Charlton has organized weekly Departmental Teas for faculty and graduate studens. He has also developed an on-line course---MA 501-502 (Advanced Mathematics for Engineers and Scientists).

David Ullrich came to NC State after getting his Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1966. Ullrich concentrated on undergraduate instruction and was known as a demanding, but effective teacher. Ullrich made several tapes on differential equations for the audio-visual tutorial center. He retired in 1996.

Robert Ramsay (Ph.D., University of Miami, 1967) joined the department in 1967. He helped to coach students for the Putnam Competition since the early 1980's. Ramsay served as Director of Undergraduate Programs and Coordinator of Advising for Mathematics from 1989 until 1999. He started the Undergraduate Math Newsletter which has been published twice each year since 1995. The same year Ramsay took the lead in getting a separate Bachelor of Science Degree Program in Applied Mathematics. He promoted the opportunities for mathematics majors in Actuary Science and developed new courses that would facilitate entry to this field. Ramsay retired in 2004.

During the 1960's there was a shortage of mathematics instructors. The government sponsored Master of Teaching programs for retired military officers at several universities including Duke University and State. Four of the graduates of these programs--- General George Speidel, Colonel Henry L. Crouch, Colonel Thomas F. Gordon and Commander Harold L. Davison---joined the faculty during this time and gave many years of faithful service.

In 1960 Cell obtained support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for an Applied Math Group working in fracture mechanics. The Air Force became interested in the problem when cracks were discovered in USAF planes, and the research was expanded to the whole area of fracture mechanics. Besides Cell, Harrington, Burniston, T. W. Ting and Adjunct Professor Sneddon worked on this project which continued until 1973.

In 1962 the department moved from its quarters in Tompkins Hall into Harrelson Hall, a large cylindrical building surrounded by a large "brickyard" (technically the "University Plaza"). While the brickyard was being constructed students, viewing the work from a Harrelson window, noted that the workmen made a mistake in laying out the pattern of white and red bricks. After the foreman was informed, the mistake was corrected.

 
Harrelson Hall Brickyard from Harrelson Window

Harrelson Hall looks terrific from the outside and it has many features that should appeal to mathematicians. The horizontal cross-section of the building is a circle, the solution of the isoperimetric problem. The hallways are annular in shape and, surrounding the center of the building, there is a helical ramp from the bottom to the top. The space occupied by a classroom or an office in Harrelson Hall has the shape of an element of volume in cylindrical coordinates. A horizontal cross-section has the shape of an element of area in polar coordinates. Thus, two sides of every office and classroom are straight and two sides are circular arcs.

The interesting geometry of the building has some negative consequences. In the offices, rectangular desks do not fit neatly on the curved walls. Amazingly, the classrooms originally had curved blackboards so that a student at point A could not see past point B on the blackboard as shown below. Eventually all the blackboards were replaced by straight blackboards.

There also have been serious problems with the air-conditioning system, noise in the hallways and acoustics in the classrooms.

In 1965 Cell negotiated a cooperative program with the Air Force Academy which brought Air Force officers to the campus for graduate work. A similar program was worked out with NASA at Langley in conjunction with Hans Sagan's research grant from NASA.These two programs provided many excellent Masters and Ph.D. candidates for about 10 years.

During the Cell administration both the university and the mathematics department grew in size and prestige. The university enrollment rose from 5766 in 1957 to 10,203 in 1967. The mathematics department increased from 31 faculty members with 11 Ph.D's in 1957 to 67 faculty with 32 Ph.D's in 1966. The faculty had a sprinkling of "pure mathematicians" in algebra and topology. A doctoral program in mathematics was established, a superior student program was started and sponsored research formed a significant part of the research done in the department. The number of courses grew from in 39 in 1957 to 83 in 1967.

The following two paragraphs deal with matters that occurred during the Cell tenure that are important in the history of the university although not of direct relevance to the mathematics department.

During the 1960's as State College grew in size and prestige, the faculty, students and alumni sought to change the name to "North Carolina State University." The Consolidated University was in favor of "the University of North Carolina at Raleigh." Students, faculty and alumni of State protested that this would make State look like a mere branch of the institution at Chapel Hill. In 1963, the state legislative officially decreed that State College be called "North Carolina State of the University of North Carolina at Raleigh," clearly a name made up by a committee. Friends of State were not happy. They kept pressure on the legislature until finally, in 1965, the name was changed again to "North Carolina State University at Raleigh."*

In contrast to many southern colleges integration of African-American students into NC State proceeded peacefully. The first black graduate students were admitted in 1953 and the first black undergraduates in 1956. The student body, faculty and administration were strong advocates of civil rights. In particular Chancellor John Caldwell who served from 1959 to 1975 not only supported admission of African-American students but strongly advocated the racial integration of Raleigh's public facilities. There were many protests against racial discrimination, some involved faculty at NC State or Chapel Hill. In 1963, some members of the North Carolina Legislature were disturbed at seeing professors of the Consolidated University participating in public demonstrations in downtown Raleigh. To punish the university, these legislators hurriedly passed the infamous ``Speaker Ban Law.''** This law prohibited the consolidated university from permitting any known communist, or anyone advocating violent overthrow of the government or any Fifth Amendment pleaders from speaking on campus. The Speaker Ban Law was universally condemned throughout the academic community as an affront to academic freedom. The noted British scientist J. B. S. Haldane refused to lecture on campus after he was questioned about his previous editorship of the British Daily Worker. The "Ban" remained a stain on the reputation of the Consolidated University until the law was declared unconstitutional by a Federal Court in 1968.**

By 1966 the department had grown to a total of 67. They were :

Full Professors: R. Bullock, J. Cell (Head), J. Clarkson, W. Harrington, J. Levine, P. E. Lewis, C. Mumford, H. Nahikian (Graduate Administrator), H. V. Park (Assistant to the Department Head),
H. Sagan, H. Speece, R. Struble, T. Ting, H. R. van der Vaart, O. Wesler, L. Winton.

Visiting Professor: M. Itoh.

Adjunct Professors: A. Galbraith, L. Roberts, I. Sneddon.

Associate Professors: J. Bishir, H. Cooke, K. Koh, C. Little, L. Martin, P. Nickel, A. Nolstad,
D. Peterson, H. Petrea, J. Querry, G. Watson, J. Wilson.

Assistant Professors: V. Brantley, E. E. Burnston, T. J. Caraway, R. Chandler, R. Honeycutt, J. Kolb,
C. F. Lewis, A. Maltbie, J. Marlin, Shahdan, G. Speidel, D. Ullrich, J. Zund.

Instructors: W. Dotson, M. Eargle, M. Garren, P. Gibson, T. Gordon, T. Harris, J. Hoomani, G. Knight,
J. McVay, C. Patton, D. Reid, R. Savage, J. Sox, G. Warmbrod.

The faculty included four women. Of the 48 professorial faculty, 32 had Ph.D. degrees.



* Alice E. Reagan ,North Carolina State University: A Narrative History, pp. 182-184
** ibid, pp. 187-189

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