View from the Chair

John Meakin

John Meakin, Department Chair

We are pleased to bring you this issue of UNL Math News, to report to friends and alumni of the UNL Department of Mathematics. We have many achievements to celebrate, and we are excited by future opportunities as the university joins the Big Ten group of academic institutions. But this is also a period of fiscal constraint, significant challenge, and likely turnover among the department's senior faculty.

With strong support from the university's administration, a substantial increase in external grant support in the past several years, and generous donations from friends and alumni, the department has achieved success and rising national prominence in all aspects of its mission. The national and international research profile of our faculty has never been higher. The department is nationally recognized for its success in mentoring women in the graduate program, for its work with the mathematics education of teachers, for excellence in its research and teaching missions, and for the impact of its extensive educational outreach program.

The department's commitment to an integrated approach to its research, teaching and outreach missions was recognized with the American Mathematical Society's 2009 Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department. Many faculty members have won recent national recognition with external grants to support their work in research and education. Judy Walker was named the Polya Lecturer in Mathematics for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 by the Mathematical Association of America, and most recently Jim Lewis was named 2010 CASE Nebraska Professor of the Year (see Page 8).

The past four years have seen growth in the size of the tenure-track faculty, with the appointment of six new assistant professors (see Page 10), and mathematician David Manderscheid joined the university as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (Page 11). Two senior faculty members, Jerry Johnson and Tom Shores (Page 9) have retired after long and productive careers in the department, and we anticipate that several more of the senior faculty will retire within the near future. This comes at a time of serious fiscal constraint for the university, indeed for many universities across the country.

It is important to recognize that the difference between a good department and a great department depends in crucial ways on the generosity of our friends and alumni. A large endowment from the estate of Dean and Floreen Eastman annually supports scholarships for over 40 undergraduate math majors who graduated from Nebraska high schools, while a fund established by Conrad and Annette Rennemann supports a scholarship for a math major from outside the state of Nebraska. Generous donations also support named professorships in mathematics. A fund set up by Richard and Marilyn Hitz with support from Jim and Doris Lewis enabled the department to establish two named postdoctoral positions in mathematics (read more about our Hitz professors on Page 11). A fund established by Roger and Sylvia Wiegand in honor of Sylvia's grandparents supports an annual award to an outstanding graduate student, and donations by many faculty and friends to the Emeritus Faculty Fellowship fund provide additional awards to graduate students (read more about these awards on Page 15).

Additional information about existing funds that support the department's work may be found on this donation form. These funds have a large impact on the Department's ability to carry out its work and we appreciate them greatly. They are particularly important in difficult economic times.

I hope that you enjoy the newsletter. I welcome input and suggestions for things that you would like to hear about in future newsletters. We want to maintain contact with the department's friends and alumni as we strive to position the department for more success in the coming years. Our intent is to produce two newsletters per year as we transition to an electronic newsletter. Please take a few minutes to share your current employment information and your e-mail address with the department.

If you are pleased by what you learn in this newsletter and would like to contribute to an existing fund or establish a new fund to support a targeted purpose, we have included a donation form. Please contact me ( if you are interested in discussing how you might help the department support a new generation of math students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.