History of the Northeast Section
Even though not as drastic as the metamorphosis of Kafka's Gregor Samsa, the NES/MAA underwent a significant transformation during the 1980's. Early in the decade, as a move to make the Section more fiscally sound, the Section By-laws were amended to allow the Executive Committee to charge an appropriate registration fee at the Section meetings. Soon thereafter a committee consisting of Helen Bass, Bodh Gulati and Ernest Schlesinger proposed updating the Section By-laws to enable the Section (and the Association as well) to retain its tax-exempt status. The NES/MAA took this opportunity to restate in the By-laws its goal of assisting "in the improvement of the education in the mathematical sciences at the collegiate level by carrying out the purposes of the national organization". The Northeastern Section, comprised of the six New England states and Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island remained throughout the decade either first or second in size of membership in the Association.
Throughout the 80's, the Association took decisive action to achieve its objectives of nurturing student talent, increasing public awareness, and making a national commitment to excellence in mathematics in both the nation's colleges and secondary schools. In line with these objectives, the Association introduced the magazine FOCUS as a more effective way to communicate news and announcements to the membership, and strengthen its ties with the mathematical community. Approval voting was adopted in an effort to encourage more people to take part in the election process. Sections were urged to begin Student Chapters, with Thurmon Whitley appointed to direct the organization of our Section's Student Chapters. The Association began offering a number of minicourses at the national meetings. Moreover, a repository for the archives of American mathematics was founded at the University of Texas in Austin, and a week each spring was designated as Mathematics Awareness Week. Locally, Gilbert Strang and Frank Morgan began to offer a series of Boston Workshops for Mathematics Faculty and, in the fall of 1984, Tom Banchoff held a interdisciplinary symposium at Brown University in honor of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Edwin Abbott's Flatland.
In the 80's, the NES/MAA sponsored eleven Short Courses and several Down East Graph Theory conferences, as well as twenty Section meetings, almost equaling the number of Section meetings held in the MAA/NES's first 25 years. The format of the meetings continued to include invited speakers and relevant panel discussions, but was adjusted to include student paper sessions, contributed paper sessions, and various computer and pedagogical workshops. The Section continued to attract distinguished speakers at its meetings. In particular, the Christie Lecturers who spoke, usually without either honorarium or travel allowances, were Gian-Carlo Rota, John Tate, John Wermer, Henry O. Pollak, Phil Davis, Tom Tucker, Ernst Snapper, Reuben Hirsh, Ron Graham, and Paul Schweitzer. Bodh Gulati was instrumental in his capacity as Section Publisher's Liaison in getting a number of book publishers to display their products at the meetings. A Microcomputer Software Exchange was begun by Thurmon Whitley and Steve Snover. The Section formed a Joint MAA/NCTM Articulation Committee, in which Steve Ingram (VT), Homer Bechtell (NH), Karl West (MA), Nancy Cetorelli (CT), and Pete Hayslett (ME) served as coordinator for their respective states. At the end of the decade, a Special Student Chapter Session, with an invited lecturer, was made part of the Section meeting.
All these changes would not have been possible without the dedicated guidance of the Executive Committees of the 80's. We were fortunate to not only have the services of Ann O'Neill, Don Small, and Jim Ward as Section Governors during the 80's, but in order to implement the changes it took the able leadership of our Section Chairpersons Roger Cooke, Jim Ward, Eric Numella, Thurmon Whitley, Steve Ingram, Dennis Luciano, and Karen Schroeder. In the 80's we became a more financially stable organization thanks to the efforts of our Secretary-Treasurers Shirley Blackett, Gordon Prichett, and Laura Kelleher, and to the Connecticut and Union Mutual Life Insurance Companies who underwrote the cost of publishing and mailing our Newsletter in the first half of the decade. We were also well served by our Two-Year College Representatives, Nancy Myers, Jean Smith, and Joe Menard. John Goulet, Dennis Luciano, and Joe Witkowski served as Coordinators of the Student Paper Sessions, while Gail Lange, Russ Rainville, Jim Tattersall, and Ed Sandifer served as Coordinators of the Contributed Papers Sessions. Ken Lane served as Public Information Officer for the Section and Pete Hayslett served as Section Placement Test Representative and liaison between the Section and the MAA Committee on Placement Examinations. Numerous members of the Section served on program committees, local arrangement committees or as workshop organizers, while others participated as speakers or presenters in such sessions. It was a genuine effort by many throughout the decade that enabled the Section to evolve and better serve the mathematical community. It should be noted that the road had been well paved by the generation that had initially organized the Section and guided it during its first 25 years.
During the decade, the mathematical world lost the expertise of R. H. Bing, E. J. McShane, George Polya, Julia Robinson, Stanislaw Ulam, Mark Kac, Mary P. Dolciani Halloran, Gabor Szego, Bert Mendelson, Charles B. Morrey Jr., and Henry Gehman. In our Section we lost the dedicated services of L. Aileen Hostinsky, Dick Howland, Dorothy Bernstein, and Stephanie Troyer.
In the 80's several of the Section's members were honored for their service to the mathematical community. Marshall Stone received the National Medal of Science, Margaret Bondorew (Medway, MA) and David Daniels (Longmeadow, MA) each received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching. Jean Smith received the AMATYC Mathematical Excellence Award. Charles Hadlock won the MAA Book Prize for his Carus Monograph Field Theory and its Classical Problems. Dennis Luciano and Gordon Prichett shared the George Polya Award. The Lester R. Ford Award was given to Stan Wagon. Marjorie Senechal was awarded the Carl B. Allendoerfer Award. Martha Zelinka of Weston, MA was named Governor-at-Large to represent the contingency of secondary school mathematics teachers. Katherine O'Brien received the Deborah Morton Award from Westbrook College honoring her for her mathematical expertise in the classroom and for her outstanding poetry. Eric Wepsic and Robert Southworth won honors representing the United States in the International Mathematical Olympiad. The MAA Certificate of Meritorious Service went to Don Small for exhibiting strong leadership, initiating innovative ideas, and his assiduous devotion in promoting NES/MAA. In addition, a room at the Association's National Headquarters in Washington, D. C. is to be dedicated to one of our founders and first Chairperson, Howard Eves.
I would be remiss at this point in archivist duties if I did not offer an appreciative thank you to Dot Meserve, Eric Nummella, Ken Lane, Phil Mahler, and Frank Battles for editing the Section's Newsletter. They have left a wonderful paper trail that was a joy to follow.
J. J. Tattersall