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In December, after more than 44 years on the faculty of Bridgewater State University, Professor Thomas Moore of the Department of Mathematics will retire. But the many scholarly contributions he’s made to the field of mathematics -- and the impact he’s had on thousands of former students and countless colleagues -- will endure.
“Originally, I hadn’t planned on being a mathematician,” said Dr. Moore. “In fact, when I entered college, my plan was to become a writer and so I majored in English.”
At the time, he was an undergraduate at Stonehill College, and, in his freshman year, met Robert Sutherland, later his long-time colleague in the BSU math department. “Frankly, I was bored with freshman English and was wondering what I should do about it. Bob told me about a dynamic math professor named Joseph Chiccarelli. As soon as I took a class with Joe, I knew mathematics was the field I wanted to study,” he said.
Not long after, Professor Chiccarelli departed Stonehill for what was then Bridgewater State College, where he would become chairman of the math department and later dean of administration. “Joe was one of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever met,” said Professor Moore, “and I came away from my experience with him wanting to inspire students in the way he did. Meeting him was a turning point in my life.”
Down the road, it would be Professor Chiccarelli who would persuade the young Thomas Moore to come to Bridgewater, but before that happened came a journey west to the fabled University of Notre Dame for graduate school, which he called “a total immersion in mathematics.”
From Notre Dame he learned lessons he incorporated into his Bridgewater classroom when he began teaching in the fall of 1968. There were less than 3,000 students at Bridgewater then and faculty numbered approximately150, with a dozen or so in the math department.
Over the years at BSU, Professor Moore’s commitment to everyday classroom teaching has been one of the pillars of his career. In fact, in 1991, he received Bridgewater’s highest honor for teaching excellence, the Dr. V. James DiNardo Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Achieving such distinction at the midpoint of his academic career caused him to reflect on his own progress as an instructor. “When I first came to Bridgewater, I was fresh out of graduate school and didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Consequently, when I think back to those earliest years, I realize now that I pushed a bit too hard, trying to cover every single concept in the syllabus in as much depth and breadth as possible. As I gained more experience, and learned from my colleagues in the department, I came to understand how to teach more effectively and get better results. That’s one of the special pleasures of being a faculty member at this level -- you too are constantly learning.”
Of special interest to Professor Moore is working with students whom he calls the “less mathematically inclined,” especially with one class, MA 105, which he’s taught over the years. “Having done this course so often, I know where their weaknesses are and therefore can help address those issues directly,” he said. “I’m sensitive to that kind of student and I’m glad I’ve been able to build a rapport with those who approach mathematics with any trepidation.”
As an expert in the mathematics of games and puzzles, he incorporates those elements into MA 105, so that the average student can see the connections between numbers and what he refers to as “recreational mathematics.”
In addition to being a dedicated teacher, he has also been an active scholar. To date, he has published more than 20 scholarly articles and more than 50 original problems in a variety of academic journals. All this occurred while Professor Moore and his wife, Kathleen, were raising four daughters -- Jennifer, Bridget, Eileen and Kathleen.
Two daughters followed their dad into mathematics. Eileen earned a bachelor’s degree in math Holy Cross and later a master’s degree in the field at Boston College. She’s now director of the MyMathLab program at Pearson, a major national publishing house. Kathleen (or Katie) was a computer science major at Holy Cross, and is now a PhD candidate at The College of William and Mary.
Professor Moore also has three grandchildren, Maeve and Michael McNamara, and Nola Kudlacik.
Will December be close of Professor Moore’s teaching career? Unlikely. “I may come back to teach a course in number theory, which is an area of particular interest to me,” he said. “I’m not severing my ties with Bridgewater.”
Other than that, Professor Moore said, “I look forward to spending more time with my grandchildren and traveling the world with my wife.” (Story and photo by David Wilson, ’71, University Advancement)