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Gerald Lee Alexanderson, 1997-1998 MAA President

Born: Idaho

Gerald Lee Alexanderson is a mathematics professor and a noted educator, author, and editor.

Presidency: 1997-1998

As president-elect, Alexanderson said in an interview,

I feel strongly about continuing what Ken Ross has started in trying to make sure that people entering the profession know about the MAA because no longer is it sufficient to be competent in research alone.

Now, at all schools, people have to be competent as teachers, and the activities that the MAA supports and makes available to its members through its journals, books, MAA Online and various programs are very relevant to people who are teaching.

So I think that we have to follow through and really make sure that people entering the profession are involved in the MAA. Project NExT, for example, is a wonderful activity that boldly underscores what the MAA is about.

At the 1997 annual meeting, the MAA honored Paul Erdős, who had died in September 1996, with a collection of invited addresses and special sessions. Ronald Graham gave a two-part series of talks on "Paul Erdős' Favorite Problems." Alexanderson had written an obituary of Erdős in the December 1996 issue of Mathematics Magazine.

In 1998, Melanie Wood became the first woman to win the USA Mathematical Olympiad. Alexanderson said, "Melanie will be an inspiration to women around the country. We believe she is only the first of an increasing number of American women achieving at the highest levels in mathematical competitions in the United States and internationally."

Education and Career

1955 University of Oregon, B.A.
1958 Stanford University, M.S.

Alexanderson chose the University of Oregon in part for its good mathematics department, including Ivan Niven, whom he describes as "a real star."

Alexanderson joined the faculty of Santa Clara University in 1958, where he was the department chair for 35 years and is currently the Valeriote Professor of Science. In 2005, he received an MAA Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics and the MAA Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award.

Alexanderson is also an indefatigable author and editor, producing over 130 articles and reviews. Among his 15 books there are five undergraduate texts (on trigonometry, problem solving, abstract algebra, and discrete mathematics), two collections of mathematics contest problems, and four resource books that focus on mathematical people and their interests. He has served as editor of Mathematics Magazine, problems editor of the American Mathematical Monthly, editor of the MAA's Spectrum book series, and as associate director of the MAA's Putnam Competition.

Prior to serving as president, Alexanderson served as MAA First Vice President (1984 - 1986) and MAA Secretary (1990 - 1997).

Alexanderson's interest in excellent teaching at all levels led to his involvement in sixteen National Science Foundation (NSF) summer and in-service institutes for teachers in California and in Switzerland, and in five NSF Cooperative College-School Science Projects for gifted students. He has also served as the chair of the board of trustees of the American Institute of Mathematics (1993-present), president of the Fibonacci Association (1980-84), and member or chair of over sixty MAA committees (as of 2010).

External Resources

Faculty website at Santa Clara University

Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award citation (also available here)

Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics citation

Council on Publications announcement (pdf) on page 3

Interview from MAA FOCUS: Pages 1, 2, 3, and 4 (jpgs)

MAA Officers Records, G.L. Alexanderson, Secretary at the Archives of American Mathematics

"President's Report: Parting Words" MAA FOCUS, Volume 19, Number 1, page 2

"President's Report: Mathfests and Other Business" MAA FOCUS, Volume 18, Number 6, page 3

"President's Report" MAA FOCUS, Volume 17, Number 4, page 9

"MAA Officers Elected" MAA FOCUS, Volume 4, Number 2, page 5