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Donald Frank St. Mary

Mathematician and academic administrator Donald Frank St. Mary was born on July 22, 1940 in Lake Charles Louisiana. He attended McNeese State College (Louisiana) as an undergraduate and completed his B.S. degree in mathematics in 1962. St. Mary went on to earn his M.A. degree in mathematics from the University of Kansas in 1964 and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Nebraska in 1968. As a graduate Ph.D. student he worked as an instructor at the University of Nebraska, and then at Iowa State University.

In 1968, St. Mary was hired by University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMASS) as an assistant professor in the physics department. His early efforts to build the department and attract research funding to the university resulted in a promotion to associate professor in 1975 and subsequently to full professor in 1983. St. Mary also worked closely to advance the education of minority students. Between 1969 and 1974, he implemented an arithmetic skills course that helped build students’ knowledge of computational analysis. During the summers between 1975 and 1981, he developed a two-week course, “What is Calculus About?” for sophomore and junior level high school students. When the university was in session he directed the Minority Engineering Program which assisted students in the academic support program with their calculus coursework. In 1992, he created and organized the Science Enrichment Program at the University of Massachusetts. The five-week residential program was designed to enrich minority high school student’s’ experiences with science curricula in a college environment.

In 1994, St. Mary was selected by faculty in the department of mathematics and statistics at UMASS to be its principal academic leader with executive responsibility for all aspects of the department, and after receiving approval from from Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics he was appointed department head. During his career, St. Mary was awarded research grants totaling $600,000 from the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. He was awarded institutional grants, all in some manner to support minority students, totaling $7 million from the NSF and the National Cancer Institute. From 1968 to 2002, St. Mary served on the Board of Directors for the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Blacks and Other Minority Students, holding various offices including vice chairman and chairman.

St. Mary is internationally renowned for his research in Computational Ocean Acoustics. He has been invited to lecture in Accra, Ghana, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Dublin, Ireland. St. Mary has authored, co-authored, and edited scholarly works for distinguished publications such as Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, Journal of Computational Physics, and Journal of the American Acoustical Society.

Donald Frank St. Mary was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 8, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.214

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/8/2012

Last Name

St. Mary

Middle Name

Frank

Schools

University of Nebraska-Omaha

University of Kansas

McNeese State College

Sacred Heart High School

Sacred Heart / Saint Katharine Drexel School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Donald

Birth City, State, Country

Lake Charles

HM ID

STM01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York, New York, San Francisco, California, Washington, D.C.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/22/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Amherst

Country

USA

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Mathematician and academic administrator Donald Frank St. Mary (1940 - )

Employment

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Iowa State University

University of Nebraska

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Donald St. Mary's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about his Creole ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary talks about his paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary describes his childhood neighborhood and his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Donald St. Mary describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Donald St. Mary describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Donald St. Mary talks about his elementary school experience

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about his interest in math

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary talks about his childhood jobs and career aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary talks about his high school experience and involvement in sports

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary talks about his childhood friends

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about his participation in Civil Rights organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary reflects on his high school experience

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary talks about his decision to attend McNeese State College

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary talks about his experience at McNeese State College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Donald St. Mary talks about meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Donald St. Mary talks about the social climate of McNeese State College

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Donald St. Mary talks about his studies at McNeese State College

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Donald St. Mary talks about his college mentors and his decision to attend the University of Kansas

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about his experience at the University of Kansas

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary talks about his studies at the University of Kansas

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary talks about his professors at the University of Kansas and his teaching philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary talks about his interest in computer-based mathematics and his decision to leave the University of Kansas

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Donald St. Mary talks about his studies and his mentor at the University of Nebraska

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Donald St. Mary describes his dissertation with differential equations

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about how he was appointed to the faculty at the University of Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary talks about his peers and his mathematical discovery

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary talks about his experience at the University of Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary talks about his research and teaching

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Donald St. Mary talks about perceptions of mathematicians

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Donald St. Mary talks about the "What is Calculus About?" summer program

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about his research and grants

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary talks about the academy's shift towards a focus on teaching

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary talks about his transition into computer-based mathematics

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary describes his research on underwater wave propagation

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Donald St. Mary talks about his excitement for his research

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Donald St. Mary talks about his use of super computers

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Donald St. Mary talks about the Housing Allowance Project

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Donald St. Mary talks about being appointed chair of the math department

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about the Science Enrichment Program

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary talks about David Blackwell and being honored by the National Association of Mathematics

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary talks about black mathematicians

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary talks about his teaching philosophy

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Donald St. Mary talks about his grant projects

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Donald St. Mary talks about his retirement from research

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Donald St. Mary talks about his community activities

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Donald St. Mary talks about his draft card

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Donald St. Mary reflects on his career

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Donald St. Mary reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Donald St. Mary talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Donald St. Mary talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Donald St. Mary describes his photos

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Donald St. Mary describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$8

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Donald St. Mary talks about his interest in computer-based mathematics and his decision to leave the University of Kansas
Donald St. Mary talks about the Science Enrichment Program
Transcript
I can tell you a little more about that. I was interested in computers. Now, eventually, my career moved into computers, computer-based mathematics. But way back then, computers were a new thing. So I took the only two computer-based mathematics courses they had in the department. This was so new. I took them because I wanted to go into computer mathematics. Well, I programmed at that point one of the earliest computers, an IBM 650. You use punch cards on this computer. You put your stack of cards on it. I could sit at the console and see what command it was executing. I could stop it. Now, a modern computer executes millions of commands in a second, all right. So (laughter), but I could stop the machine, and it would show me which command it was working on. Okay, the faculty member, he was the only one who did computer mathematics, he ran the computer facility, the one I'm telling you about, the research computer stuff. You put your machines on there, your cards on the card reader. He taught me a whole year's course. I wanted to be in this area. It is the area I eventually came to many, many years later. But I decided I could not work with him. He was too busy. After having him for a year, two whole semesters in a graduate-level course and seeing him, you know, three days a week, I knew that wasn't gonna work, even though he knew I was interested. He told me he would like for me to stay at the University of Kansas. He said he would support me. I decided not to stay because I knew I was gonna have trouble. He was extremely busy. He, he didn't grade our homework papers himself. He had a teaching assistant grading the papers. That was fine, but I knew I could not complete a PhD which is a major, major undertaking under somebody who could barely give me the time of day (laughter). That wasn't gonna work. And so I started looking for other institutions. First, institutions that had computer-based mathematics. That was almost non-existent in '62' [1962] and '63' [1963]. But I ended up transferring to the University of Nebraska.$$Now, had you received your Masters already at--$$It turns out I hadn't, but I completed it that fall.$$Okay.$$I hadn't, you had to finish your Masters thesis, and have an oral exam on your Masters thesis. So those things weren't done. They were done in the fall when I was officially then, a student at the University of Nebraska. But my MA degree came from the University of Kansas. And I completed my dissertation and had my oral exam. And so now, I'm at the University of Nebraska, but my focus has been in analysis, all right, the, my dissertation is in one of the branches of analysis, Integration. The computer mathematics that I was studying, it's in analysis. And so it was natural, when I got to the University of Nebraska to focus on analysis. Analysis there focused on differential equations. So I started taking advanced differential equations courses, and any--several of them, several different kinds. And so I was a teaching assistant there. I taught freshmen, largely.$Yes, now, we neglected to go over the, to talk about the SEP Program. That started in '92' [1992], National Cancer Institute awards you a five-year, $3 million grant for a science enrichment program.$$Yes, that was a phenomenal thing. SEP stands for Science Enrichment Program. The goal is to try to move minority students and underserved students, so students who may not be a minority, but be in a community where their--communities where their development would not be very robust. Enter the sciences. Now, the National Cancer Institute, of course, would like for them to be biological scientists. But I didn't care about that (laughter). I wanted to move them into the sciences. You have to be a scientist before you can be a biological scientist at some level in any case. And so I designed this program. It brings rising, ninth grade students from all over New England and Upstate New York, as far away as Buffalo and all of that, to this campus for a five-week residential program. And there are six areas of study that are studied extensively. Each area of study, the six areas are biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, physics and language arts, okay. So you have five science areas and one non-science area, language arts. These were structured courses. Each course was taught by a professor and a high school teacher. The professor may come from here or I may have gotten him from other institution, but they were professorial status, and I told these professors, to design courses that are not in the high school curriculum. Don't want anything that's in high school that they're gonna learn next year. Said, you design a course for, for students that they can understand and learn from, but I want it to be serious, and it needs to--if you can bring in research, bring it. And they did miraculously. I was, I was really impressed with the faculty and the high school teachers. They worked hand-in-glove. They designed the courses. Usually, the professor designed the course before the high school teacher got here. I found the best high school teachers I could find anywhere, from Chicago, from wherever. I had a fantastic chemistry high school teacher from Chicago. And, now, had a full residential staff, counselors that worked with the students directly. I had senior staff, residents' hall staff and a full program, all activities, all day were planned. And it was enormously successful.$$Were the students from the Boston area or from Springfield or, you know, cities in Massachusetts mainly or--$$No, we couldn't do that. We certainly had some from those areas, those large geographical areas. But because this, we were supposed to be covering a broad geographical area. So we definitely had students from those (unclear), from Springfield, from Hartford, but we also had students from Maine, from Upstate New York, from Buffalo, as I mentioned. And so it was largely populated by minority students, black students, Hispanic students and some American Indian students. But I just considered it enormously successful. Everybody who interacted with it just thought it was phenomenally good.$$How many years did you do this?$$We ran it five years or was it six years? (Laughter) Am I having a senior moment?