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2012 Certificates for Meritorious Service Announced

The Mathematical Association of America has selected David Kerr, Joe Yanik, Ruth Favro, Frank Ford, Hortensia Soto-Johnson, and Minerva Cordero-Epperson for the 2012 Certificates for Meritorious Service. Full citations and biographical information for each winner is available below.

Certificates for Meritorious Service are presented, on the recommendation of the Sections of the Association, for service at the national level or for service to a Section of the Association. The first such awards were made in 1984. At each January meeting of the Association, honorees from several Sections are recognized. Read more about the certificate .

This award will be presented during the Joint Prize Session on Thursday, January 5, 2012, at the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, Massachusetts.

David Kerr, Florida Section

David Kerr has a long and exemplary record of contributions to the MAA, to the Florida Section, and to Eckerd College, where he has been in the mathematics department for twenty years. He was instrumental in getting students involved in undergraduate research projects at Eckerd, and for several years took a large contingent of students to the annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research to give talks. Today, David brings groups of students to the Section meeting, and has several students presenting there every year.

David has been an MAA member for over twenty years, and has been actively involved in the Florida Section ever since coming to Florida. David has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Section for most of the last 15 years, and he has become one of those individuals who carries the Section’s institutional memory. In 1996-97, he first joined the Executive Committee as Vice-President for Site Selection. In 2000-01, David was Vice-President for Programs, and brought his penchant for rethinking processes to the organization of the Section meeting. During that year he proposed and implemented the idea of having a volume of proceedings for the meeting; the proceedings for that year and for three years afterward were in fact printed, largely through his unceasing efforts. He was President of the Section in 2002-03, and served as Governor 2004-07. After completing his term as Governor, he once again took on the challenging role of Vice-President for Programs in 2008-09. He is currently in the middle of a term as Newsletter Editor. David has, for many years, overseen the display and sales of MAA books and materials, and he is the one who carries the display copies to and from each meeting and stores them between meetings. He was the recipient of the Section’s Distinguished Teaching award in 2000, and the Section Distinguished Service award in 2009.

Biographical Note

David Kerr received his B.A. from the University of South Florida in Tampa in 1976. After teaching high school for two years and serving a tour in the U.S. Navy, he returned to the University of South Florida as a graduate student in 1983. He completed his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees under the direction of Athanassios Kartsatos. Early in his career, David taught at the University of North Carolina, Asheville and at Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts. For the last twenty-one years he has been at Eckerd. David recalls struggling with mathematics in high school, especially Algebra II, and only ended up majoring in mathematics in college because, as he always says, it is a subject he enjoys no matter who is teaching the course. As a graduate student, David was active in the Graduate Assistants Union and successfully lobbied the Florida State Legislature in 1985 to implement tuition waivers for all graduate teaching assistants in the state. At Eckerd, he has served as the Mathematics Discipline Coordinator for the last fifteen years. In addition to the MAA, he has been active in the AAUP at both the local and state levels. David is an accomplished weight lifter on the bench press with a personal record of 325 lbs.

Joe Yanik, Kansas Section

Joe Yanik has been an active member of the Kansas Section for more than twenty years and has served as Secretary/Treasurer since 2006. As Secretary/Treasurer, Joe has been the backbone of the Section leadership, providing a sense of continuity and wisdom that helps keep the Section running smoothly, even as the other officers come and go. Joe cheerfully agrees to serve in any way asked of him, as well as on his own initiative. Joe also serves on the Committee on Sections, which has indirectly benefitted the Kansas Section in several ways. In particular, he recognized a number of ways that our Section could improve, which inspired him to spearhead a review of the Section bylaws ahead of the schedule required by the national office. He chaired the committee that drafted new bylaws that will hopefully be put into place soon. Joe most recently has volunteered to help plan an upcoming joint meeting between the Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska/SE South Dakota Sections. Joe additionally serves the mathematical community as a whole as an award winning teacher and proponent of using technology to teach mathematics.

With an active member of the MAA such as Joe, it can be difficult to give a complete list of all that he does. Indeed, it is often the unnamed service that makes a difference. Some of Joe’s named service to the MAA includes: Associate Editor of LOCI (2010-), Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Online Mathematics (2010), Committee on Sections (2009-), and Committee on the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics (2006-).

Biographical Note

Joe Yanik was born in Effingham, IL, but lived in Melvindale, MI during most of his childhood and in Louisville, KY during high school. He met his wife, Betsy, in graduate school at the University of Kentucky and they were eventually able to solve the two-body problem when they joined the faculty of Emporia State University in 1990. They have two daughters who, during their formative years, were regular attendees of the national MAA meetings. Joe expects to be best remembered as the father of Elizabeth Yanik and of Mary Yanik.

Ruth Favro, Michigan Section

At Lawrence Tech, Professor Favro has served as the faculty advisor for competitive student events such as the Lower Michigan Mathematics Competition, the Michigan Autumn Take-Home Challenge, and the Mathematical Contest in Modeling, from 1989 to the present. For the Section, she directed the Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition (MMPC) 1991-1994, and then served on the Executive Committee for nearly a continuous decade: three years as Secretary-Treasurer (1997-2000); three years as Vice-Chair, Chair, and Past Chair (2000-2003); and finally three years as Governor (2004-2007). Additionally, from 1995 to present she has coached the Michigan ARML team (American Regions Math League), each year recruiting from the high school students who participated in the MMPC. At the national level, Professor Favro has been actively involved with committees for the MAA such as the Committee on Local and Regional Competitions (1998-2002), the Committee on Competitions (2002-2006), and the Committee on the Participation of Women (2000’2008, Chair 2002’2006).

In addition to all of this dedicated service, Professor Favro has worked tirelessly at every level to promote greater participation among women in mathematics. At her home institution, she has been regularly involved in the LTU Women’s Career Day; for the state she was the co-coordinator of Michigan Area Women and Mathematics 1995-2000; and she served the national Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM) as a member of the AWM Falconer Lecture Committee 2004’2010, chairing the committee 2008-2010. Currently she serves on the AWM Meetings and Programs Portfolio Committee.

Professor Favro’s colleagues recognize the deep impact she has had on mathematics in Michigan through her many activities, and especially her recruitment, advising, coaching, and encouragement of students. She regularly brings LTU students to Section meetings and is constantly involved in coaching groups of students in competitions. Her department chair, David Bindschadler, observes that she has been an outstanding contributor to the LTU mathematics department and the profession in general, noting that she has been extremely effective at being connected to and participating in the broader mathematical community.

Biographical Note

Ruth Favro completed her undergraduate work at Wellesley in Art History and Mathematics. She received her M.S. at New York University-Courant Institute and did further work at Wayne State University. While in NYC she taught at Brooklyn Poly (now NYU-Poly). In Detroit, after a time multitasking with kids, clay, and math, she pursued a full time appointment at Lawrence Tech. Her interests in partial differential equations (PDE), computer graphics, fractals and chaos, and coaching student contests led to developing courses in mathematical modeling and geometry in art, and many talks to different groups. Outside interests include squash, bicycling, fly-fishing, and travel. Now retired (at least salary-wise), she still is involved in teaching, coaching mathletes, and outreach. She hopes someday to get back to clay in the context of mathematics and art.

Frank Ford, Northeastern Section

Professor Ford has been an MAA member since 1980, when he first became an assistant professor at Providence College. Not long after, he began contributing to the Section. Ford recalls ’running a computer demo of something, I don’t remember what,â? at the Fall 1983 Section meeting at Providence College.

Ford pitched in wherever he could through the 1980s and 1990s, and was elected Vice Chair of the Northeastern Section in 1996. He then served as Section Chair from 1997 to 1999, and Past Chair from 1999 to 2001.

While Section Chair, Ford took over the newsletter editor’s job with Barry Schiller of Rhode Island College; since 2000, Ford has tackled this job as a solo endeavor. For the past 13 years, Professor Ford has coordinated information for and from the Section, making sure that the membership knew all the details about upcoming Section meetings, and regularly contacting departmental liaisons every semester so that all of the comings and goings of the colleges and universities are known.

More importantly, Professor Ford ensures that the Section membership hears from the officers regularly. Each semester, he sends a note to the Section’s Executive Committee reminding them that it is their duty to write a message for the newsletter. In this way, Professor Ford has functioned not only as the Section’s town crier, but as its moral conscience as well.

When it became apparent that sending out a large paper newsletter was the chief financial drain on the Section’s finances, Professor Ford adapted the newsletter to an online format, and instituted an inexpensive ’liteâ? mailbox version that had the simple facts about the upcoming meeting and a registration form. When the job of webmaster came open, Frank took that on as well.

However, Professor Ford is, above all, true to the mission of the MAA in encouraging his colleagues to be excellent in education, in getting his newer colleagues involved in the Section through giving talks or taking on responsibilities, and especially in promoting public appreciation of mathematics. Toward this end, Professor Ford’s other joy is to help arrange Section meetings, serving several times in the past decade as a program chair, as a member of a program committee, or as our genial host.

Biographical Note

Frank Ford, after receiving degrees from Rhode Island College and the University of Kansas, began teaching at Providence College, where he remains. At PC, he was Department Chair for 13 years, Secretary of the Faculty Senate for over 10 years and President of the Faculty Senate for four years. He is co-founder of the PC High School Computer Programming Contest and has been co-director for its 25+ years. He has been an officer of the Section for over 10 years, has hosted at least three Section meetings of the MAA and two regional meetings of a Computer Science conference. He is a lector, lay minister of the Eucharist, money-counter, and trustee of his Church. He is in his ninth year as secretary of his local historical society. He enjoys theater, music, museums, cross word puzzles, and visiting historical sites. His life-long quest is to discover the secret of permanent weight-loss. If you find it, let him know.

Hortensia Soto-Johnson, Rocky Mountain Section

Hortensia (known as Tensia to MAA members) has a long record of outstanding service to the MAA. Tensia’s outstanding leadership as the Section Secretary/Treasurer has provided a pillar of strength for the Section and proved a pivotal role in getting our Section to establish a graduate student session at the Section meetings. Tensia managed to leverage Section resources to provide partial travel support to graduate students at the local research universities, which has resulted in the students recruiting additional peers to attend the Section meeting. The graduate student session has been a great addition to the program and it has also provided a catalyst for other research based sessions at the Section meeting.

Tensia has served on several national MAA committees (Minicourses, America Conference Center Advisory Board, and the Strategic Planning Working Group on Revenue), has chaired the MAA Web Policies and Procedures Committee and the RUME Committee on Mentoring, and has served on the Board of Governors twice. She has also served on the editorial board for the MAA FOCUS and for MAA Online, plus she currently serves on the Leitzel Lecture Committee. Tensia has made numerous contributions to the Section and to the MAA, but more importantly it is the quality of her contributions that has made her a valued resource to our Section. Tensia has an outgoing and positive attitude that makes her a joy to work with along with a strong ability to get the job done. In fact, she organized the first Annual Pikes Peak Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference.

It is fortunate that the timing of this award lends us the opportunity to recognize Tensia for her service as she steps down from the position of Secretary/Treasurer; we look forward to the contributions that she will make in the future.

Biographical Note

Hortensia Soto-Johnson grew up in Western Nebraska where she spent long summer days working on the farm and day dreaming about going to college, so she wouldn’t have to do manual labor the rest of her life. At that time she thought she would be a big corporate lawyer, even though she always saved her math homework for the last thing because it was like dessert. She didn’t know anything about graduate school, until her undergraduate advisor said, ’So where are you going to get your Ph.D.?â? The day dreaming quickly commenced after she found out what that meant. Hortensia teaches at the University of Northern Colorado training preservice elementary, secondary, and collegiate mathematics teachers. Her favorite past time is spending time with her family, which includes going back to Nebraska to do manual labor.

Minerva Cordero-Epperson, Texas Section

Minerva Cordero-Epperson is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Arlington. Minerva is an active member of the Texas Section of the MAA. Her service to the Section includes serving as a director, Section chair and chairing the committee to organize the 85th Annual Meeting of the Texas Section. She is known to serve with enthusiasm, creativity, and innovation. For example, she introduced the ’Calculus Bowlâ? competition at the 85th Annual Meeting, which is now a very popular tradition.

At the local level, Minerva is a very popular teacher and an active research advisor to both graduate and undergraduate students. Twice she was awarded Professor of the Year by the Student Chapter of the MAA at her university. Upon arrival at UT Arlington, she initiated the Student Chapter of the MAA and a year later she was awarded the UT Arlington Outstanding Advisor Award and the Student Chapter received the ’Overall Winnerâ? Award among all the UT Arlington organizations. For her excellence in teaching she received the MAA Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching presented by the Texas Section. She also received the University of Texas Regents Award For Distinguished Teaching and is a member of the UT Arlington Academy of Distinguished Teachers. She is involved in several initiatives to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the mathematical sciences at UT Arlington. For example, through her National Science Foundation Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) grant she works with several schools in the Arlington area which have a large enrollment of minorities and economically disadvantaged students to bring mathematical research to these schools to motivate students to pursue careers in the mathematical sciences.

Minerva has received an MAA TENSOR-SUMMA grant and has co-directed MAA sponsored REU programs for the last four years. Some of her research students have won first place in the Student Presentations Competitions at the Texas Section Meetings.

Minerva is also active at the national level. She was the MAA Governor-At-Large for Minority Interests (2008-20011) and she has served on several national committees: the Invited Address Committee for MathFest 2012, the Invited Addresses Committee for the 2011 Joint Mathematics Meeting, the Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics (which she currently co-chairs), CUPM Subcommittee on Curriculum Renewal Across the First Two Years, and the Strategic Planning Working Group on Membership. She is currently an Associate editor of the American Mathematical Monthly and serves in the Human Resources Advisory Committee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at Berkeley, CA.

Biographical Note

Minerva Cordero-Epperson is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Arlington. She was born and raised in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. As a young girl she always loved and excelled at mathematics, and was blessed with many supportive and encouraging mathematics teachers. She knew since a very young age that she wanted to pursue a career in mathematics. Since there were no Ph.D. programs in mathematics in Puerto Rico at the time, she moved to the United States to pursue her graduate studies. Since then, she has published numerous articles and given talks at national and international conferences on her research in finite geometries. An integral part of her career centers on her devotion to teaching and her dedication to her students. This has been the driving force behind her involvement with the MAA and other organizations that promote students' involvement in the greater mathematical community.