Park History

A Brief History of the Mathematics Department

by Hubert V. Park

(from the 1974-75 issue of the Harrelson News)

I have chosen to start this article with the year 1909 since it was in the spring of that year that a young farm boy from Cleveland County (N.C.) graduated in Mechanical Engineering from N. C. College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. His name was John W. Harrelson who was promoted from Instructor in Mathematics to Department Head and who later served as Dean of administration (Chancellor) of N. C. State from 1934-1953. Harrelson Hall is so named as tribute to the services rendered N. C. State by the Colonel. The period 1909-1975 is divided into subperiods according to the years that various department chairmen have served. Most of the data has been obtained from college catalogs and hopefully it is approximately correct.

1909-1933 R. E. L. Yates, Head

In 1909 the Department had five faculty members, two of whom were also teaching some engineering courses in addition to mathematics, since the Math Department was then a part of the Engineering School. The courses taught were Arithmetic, Algebra, Plane and Solid Geometry, Trigonometry, Analytic Geometry, Differential and Integral Calculus and Farm mathematics. Even in those early years the engineering students and students in agriculture did not always take the same mathematics courses. The student body increased from just under 600 in 1909 to 1660 in 1933. By 1933 the course offerings had . offerings had increased to 14 and included History of Mathematics, Vector Analysis, and Theory of Equations, which were first given in 1929-30 as courses for graduate students only. The faculty increased from 5 in 1909 to 10 in 1933 including the first graduate teaching fellow to be appointed in Mathematics (D. B. Thomas, a graduate student in Physics).

It was interesting to discover that James B. Scarborough was an Instructor in Mathematics at State from 1914-1917. Some of the older readers will recall that he wrote several texts among which was Numerical Analysis, a classic in that field and widely used. He was later a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.

For the past several years the Math Department has held picnics at the Finley cabin, which is located on "Yates Pond". Much of the property in this area belonged to Professor Yates where he operated a dairy farm for many years.

1933-1934 John W. Harrelson, Head

Professor Harrelson had been on leave from N. C. State to serve as Director of the State Department of Conservation from 1929-1933, He was appointed Chairman of the Math Department in 1933, but served only one year because he was selected as Dean of administration (Chancellor) at State College under the new Consolidated University System in 1934. Colonel Harrelson served in this position until his retirement in 1953. The faculty of the Department at this time included, in addition to Harrelson, the following: Fisher, Fontaine, Journey, Lee, Mock, Mumford, Williams and Yates (part-time)

1934-1957 H. A. Fisher, Head

Professor Fisher, a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, joined the Department in 1920 and was promoted to Chairman in 1934 to succeed Harrelson. During part of 1933, Fisher served as Acting Chairman while Colonel Harrelson was completing his work with the Department of Conservation and Development. During Fisher's Administration, the Department grew from a minor department to one of prominence on the N.C.State campus. In the fall of 1934 the first two Ph.D. members were added to the department faculty, J. H. Clarkson and J. G. Estes, (Dr. Estes was killed in an airplane accident in the spring of 1935). During the three year period 1934-1936, the following additional faculty were added to the those listed above, Bullock, Cell, Levine, Nahikian, Park, Seagraves, Thomas and Winton.

In 1936, several new advanced courses were added to the Department offerings including Advanced Calculus for Engineers and several other applied mathematics courses. Through the combined efforts of Professor Fisher and dedicated faculty the Math Department over this 23 year period gained prominence as one of the most respected departments on the campus. As the student body increased additional faculty were added, and more advanced courses were added to the mathematics program. In 1947, after several years effort, the Master of Engineering Mathematics degree was approved. Later, in 1956, a B.S. degree in Engineering Mathematics was also approved. It is of some interest to note that our first. degree programs were in "Engineering Mathematics". This was necessary in order that our degree granting department not be in competition with the Mathematics Department at U.N.C. Chapel Hill.

The course offerings over this period increased from 10 to 39. The number of faculty increased from 9 to 31. The enrollment fluctuated from 1821 to 2630 and then decreased to 893 during the World II period. However by 1957 the enrollment was up to 5180. In the fall of 1954 State changed from the quarter system to the semester system.. Another item of interest concerns a student, W. C. Friday. He is listed in the 1941-42 catalog as a 5th year student in Textiles and as a Dormitory Assistant. "Bill" Friday is now president of the North Carolina University System.

1957-1967 John W. Cell, Head

During this period, under Professor Cell's leadership, the Department experienced tremendous growth. Additional graduate programs were introduced and the undergraduate program was revised and strengthened. A Ph. D. program in Applied Mathematics was approved and the first Ph.D. degrees were awarded in June 1964 (Robert E. Dalton, John H. Heinbockel and John T. Welch). The graduate faculty was strengthened by such appointments as Harrington, Koh, Nickel, Sagan, Struble, and others. In 1960 the Mathematics Department; became a part of a new school, the School of Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics, and our degrees were changed from "Engineering Mathematics" to "Mathematics" and Applied Mathematics. The course offerings increased form 39 to 80. The faculty increased from 37 to 65 and the enrollment increased from 6170 in the fall of 1957 to 10,000 in 1967. Not only was Professor Cell interested in quality.research, but he was also concerned that his faculty do a good job in the classroom. The following were recognized as "Outstanding Teachers" during this period: Bullock, Cell, Maltbie, Park, Petrea and Wesler.

1967-1968 Hubert V. Park, Acting Head

In the spring of 1967, Professor Cell resigned as Chairman because of ill health, and he died in November 1967.. H. V. Park was then appointed as Acting Chairman. Seven appointments were made to the faculty during this year, five of whom, Hartwig, Huneycutt, Luh, Meyer and Silber, have remained in the Department and have proven to be very productive in its research and teaching programs. Professor Wilson was recognized as Outstanding Teacher in 1968.

1968-1975 Nicholas J. Rose, Head

In the fall of 1968, Dr. N. J. Rose, former Head of the Mathematics Department of Stevens Institute of Technology, was appointed Chairman. Under his able leadership course and curricula have continued to be revised and updated. The graduate program has also been strengthened in certain areas through the addition of new courses and new faculty. However, the total number of faculty has not increased in spite of the fact that the total enrollment of the University has increase from 11,000 to approximately 15,500. Since 1968 the following additional members of the faculty have been recognized as Outstanding Teachers: Bishir, Caraway, Cooke, Kolb, Levine and Waters.

I hope the reader will get some pleasure in noting how this department has grown from a rather humble beginning to one of the best in this region. I give tribute to all the Old Timers who have retired or will soon retire -- Bullock, Cell, Clarkson, Fisher, Levine, Mumford, Nahikian (Graduate Administrator 1957-1972), Williams, Winton, and others -- for the part each has contributed to the department's growth. Those of us who came here in the 1930's and were part of this development have had an experience that we cherish and it is one that few people today will be able to enjoy.

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