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Lynn Arthur Steen, 1985-1986 MAA President

Lynn Arthur Steen, a former mathematics professor at St. Olaf College, is known for his leadership and service in the mathematics community, contributions to mathematics education, and expository writing.

Presidency: 1985-1986

As president of the MAA, Steen wrote a column titled "from the President's desk..." in several issues of the MAA's news magazine, MAA FOCUS. These columns capture his vision for the MAA's future and his involvement with issues of mathematics education and mathematics policy.

Steen emphasized MAA efforts to promote the visibility of mathematics outside the mathematics community, often involving the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Congress. The first National Mathematics Awareness Week was held April 14-20, 1986, due in large part to the MAA's efforts in promoting public understanding of mathematics. Near the end of Steen's term, the NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences established the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, which has since grown to include more than five dozen mathematics REU sites throughout the country.

Education and Career

Steen earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics, with a minor in philosophy, at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1961. He went on to complete his Ph.D. in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965 and subsequently joined the faculty of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

Before his 30-year tenure as a full professor began in 1975, Steen was already noted for his mathematical writing. His book Counterexamples in Topology (1970), cowritten with J. Arthur Seebach Jr., stands out as an especially influential mathematics text and is often considered the standard reference in the field. Steen won the Lester R. Ford Award for outstanding expository papers twice, for "Highlights in the History of Spectral Theory" (1973) and "Conjectures and Counterexamples in Metrization Theory" (1972).

He served as editor of the MAA's Mathematics Magazine with Seebach from 1976 to 1980 and has held numerous other editorial positions and leadership positions. Steen earned the MAA's prestigious Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award in 1992.

In recent years, Steen's professional interests have centered on quantitative literacy and both secondary and postsecondary mathematics education. He has published extensively on these topics.

External Resources

Faculty website at St. Olaf College

Gung and Hu Distinguished Service to Mathematics Award citation

MAA Officers Records, Lynn Arthur Steen, President at the Archives of American Mathematics

The Mathematics Genealogy Project

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