A short while ago, Glen Van Brummelen, one of Quest’s founding faculty members, was alerted that he had been awarded one of the highest honors a mathematics professor can receive: the Mathematical Association of America’s Pacific Northwest Teaching Award, putting him in the running for the national award. Not only is the award a huge honor, it also gave both Glen and a few of his students the opportunity to head down to a mathematics conference at the University of Washington in Tacoma. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to head down for the weekend. The conference, titled the 7th annual Northwest Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium, also wanted a few of his students to present the award and prepare a short introduction on his behalf highlighting why Glen should be given this honor. Writing the speech was about as difficult as predicting Squamish’s weather from November to March (hint: rain). I’ve had the good fortune of being in one of Glen’s math class an he is without a doubt the most positive and encouraging machine of energy anyone could ever ask for in a classroom.
The conference also gave us a chance to see what academic conferences are like in the mathematical realm of things. It included a lot more free food than I expected (seriously, it was like a food conference with people who all just happened to be mathematicians). It also had some really amazing talks, including one given by MAA president Francis Edward Su on fixed point theorems and one by Tevian Dray on the geometry of general relativity. Much of it was of it was over my head but that didn’t detract from my sheer enjoyment of being in a setting where everyone was focused on the spread of interesting ideas and mathematical excellence. Some presentations were also given by fellow undergraduate students, giving me the opportunity to see what might be my future self in one to two years giving my own presentation. Possibly in conjunction with Glen!
It was simply exciting to have to chance to attend such a conference. I hope future students at Quest will have the same opportunities available to them as well. Nothing makes math quite as interesting as being surrounded by people so interested in the subject. This, of course, is the exact reason why I’m so grateful to have Glen here at the school. His enthusiasm is infectious and his drive is something to behold. Reading the letters of recommendation he received for the award was amazing, as they highlighted just how many people Glen had managed to profoundly affect and influence. I believe one of them was from David Helfand, our current president, with a direct quote that described Glen’s ability to teach and excite students about math as “indistinguishable from wisardry.” So cheers to Glen, Quest’s most influential math wizard.