Address delivered by the Executive Director at the closing ceremonies in MathPath 2004
July 24, 2004
Roger Williams University
Parents, students, staff, and faculty:
The few minutes I take to deliver the closing address at this camp represent the high point of my year. My satisfaction becomes complete after those of you flying out are safely transported to the airports and you have caught your flights home.
I stand in admiration of the parents who built you and made it possible for you to attend this boot camp in math for the brightest - early. This camp is the first time some of you have been away from home for an extended period. ----------- It was not easy on you or your parents when the camp commenced. ------------ And the staff worked with you and your parents to make the beginning days of the camp smooth. ------------ For parents, we tried to allay their fears and concerns and persuaded them to trust us to deliver a camp. I believe we have delivered. ---------- I thank the parents for trusting us and working with us.
It takes enormous amount of planning and preparation to organize each year's Mathpath summer program. Many months of work precedes it. There are three people I wish to particularly thank, who were in the pit with me on several aspects of the camp. First - Prof. Stephen Maurer for producing the quiz as well as being a consultant on several matters. He helped us to recruit the faculty and some of the visiting speakers. I thank him on your behalf! I thank Mr. Kip Sumner for working with me in planning the camp. He would appear as a tough person; and he is. But he is smart, fair, and a straight-shooter. He and Dr. Maurer constitute the rock on which I built Mathpath 2004. I thank Dr. Laurens Gunnarsen for working with me on the nonprofit organization that is now behind this camp. Dr. Gunnarsen is the president of this non-profit organization.
For working with Mr. Sumner to provide an orderly and a safe camp I thank Mr. Larry Evans.
It is a difficult task to be a counselor at a camp like this. The success of the counselor is measured by the happiness of the campers under their charge. I am pleased that they have succeeded well.
You came to Mathpath mainly for the math. It is clear that the faculty have delivered. I am in humble admiration of these great communicators. They came here because they endorsed the idea of training the future ones of their kind. They did not come here for the money, for what we pay is inadequate compensation for their greatness. I invite these faculty to return and help us recruit more of the finest that can be found anywhere in the world. And Mr. Lippert did a great job of working with faculty and students to provide a smooth and challenging program. He is Mr.Cool. The L in cool stands for Lippert.
In South Central Europe, not far from where the Romanian student in this camp lives, there are these mountains constituting the Carpathian range. It is not from Geography sources that I first heard the name "Carpathian." It was in the beautiful essay - The Vulture - written by Dr. Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth century English moralist, that I first heard of it. I call you alumni of Mathpath, Mathpathian - like the beautiful Carpathian.
You would now forgive me for not refraining from rendering my vision of what I would like the social characteristics of a Mathpathian to be. ---------------- In simple language, what are the marks of a Mathpathian?
A Mathpathian is an individual who attended a Mathpath summer camp but who above all exhibits THESE qualities of behavior.
Polite. ---------- Which is a little more than absence of rudeness.
You see, mathematical talent is only one talent. Different people have different talents. Yours is math. While you ought to be proud of this gift which was bestowed on you by the chances of birth and circumstance, it should not be licence for habitual rudeness. Being polite allows you to travel a smooth road. ----------- When you become professors and scientists in future, you will most certainly have colleagues and supporting staff. If you are polite with them, you will have a smoother life. You will be able to get along - travel - well.
The important aspect of human life on this planet is people. People gave you life. People make the things that you use. And people will bury you one day. It is these people -- all people -- without whom there is no life for you. So a mathpathian, being logical, is polite to people. To be otherwise is foolish - for you will make your own life difficult.
But a mathpathian also does not hurt anybody. It is fools who engage in hurting people, emotionally or physically. No reason or belief system can justify hurting others. So, the mathpathian does not hurt people. In fact a mathpathian goes further -- he/she is kind to people. Plato said: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."
A mathpathian is extremely smart. He knows that a smile is the most disarming tool. When you meet a person, you have less than two seconds to befriend that person. And it is easy. Give a warm smile. And mean it.
A mathpathian does not use indecorous words.----------- It is the permanently or temporarily lame person who needs crutches. Similarly, it is the insecure person who makes a habit of using bad words. We are secure people. We do not use indecorous words. We use complimentary and comforting words. ALWAYS!
So these are the minimum I expect of you. I know that many of you will rise in the world of mathematics and bring glory to your parents and this nation. But what I ask you now is not just the relentless pursuit of your gift but also the cultivation of mathpathian habits of at least minimum goodness so that people can smoothly work with you and enjoy your presence.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Character is higher than intellect."
As you go forth from this camp, I ask you to keep us informed of your progress and the changes in your permanent mailing addresses. I ask you to revisit mathpath as counselors ---- as staff ---- as visiting speakers ---- and as faculty. For I believe in your goodness and in your ability. I wish that life be smooth for you and that you rise by sustained work to the goals you will set for yourself.
Parting is difficult. But after this parting we are still together, for we have a community forum on the Mathpath website so you can communicate to other Mathpathians even if you lost their phone # or email address or they changed theirs. ----------- The pain of this parting is in direct proportion to the strength of the bonds we have built. So the sadder we are now, the greater the friendships we have built.
I am thankful to have had the chance and privilege of helping to bring you all together and to see you off as the proud alumni of MathPath in its glorious third year.
George Rubin Thomas, Ph.D.
Page last updated December 19, 2014
Copyright © 2001– MathPath
Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org