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John Harvey, Mathematician and Mathematics Educator, Dies Suddenly

John G. Harvey, retired Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, died suddenly on May 3. He received his Ph.D. degree from Tulane University in 1961 in the area of partially ordered groups, working with Paul Conrad. He co-authored a paper with Conrad and Holland in which they proved the Hahn embedding theorem for lattice-ordered groups.

Professor Harvey was a native of Waco, Texas and started his academic career at Navarro Junior College. He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Baylor University in 1955, his master's degree in mathematics from Florida State University in 1957 and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Tulane University in 1961.

Harvey spent most of his career in the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which he joined in 1966 as an associate professor after having spent 5 years at the University of Illinois. He made his mark at Wisconsin and in the mathematics profession as a first class mathematician who was also devoted to advancing mathematics education and was able to combine the two emphases in his career.

University of Wisconsin Professor of Mathematics Robert Wilson said: "John was incredibly active in many professional areas. He held major positions in professional societies and led reviews of departments. He had almost 100 published papers and books. In 1993 the Wisconsin Math Council named him as its Outstanding Mathematics Educator. John has also been a leader nationally in the careful use of technology in teaching mathematics. He had 24 Ph.D. students and through them 91 descendents.”

University of Wisconsin Professor of Mathematics Education Tom Carpenter said “John made numerous contributions to the mathematics education program at the University of Wisconsin. One that many people may not be familiar with is how exceptionally generous he was in his support of younger faculty and students. He was a valued colleague and friend.”

Rochelle Meyer, SUNY Nassau Community College, said, “I was one of his first students in the then new program at the University of Madison which granted a Mathematics Ph.D. with a dissertation in mathematics education. John Harvey came on board as the professor to create and run this program. He always had time for his students, was helpful and encouraging, as well as full of good ideas."

Dan Kalman of American University said, "John Harvey's students combined an interest in mathematics and education at the highest levels. At the University of Wisconsin, the mathematics program recognized a specialty in education as a worthy focus for doctoral study in mathematics. Harvey collaborated with mathematics educational specialists in the School of Education, but he was for many years the sole representative of that community in the department of mathematics. Harvey also conducted his own research in the educational applications of games, use of technology, and contributed to major curriculum development projects."

Mary Lindquist, past President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said, "I was fortunate to work eight years with John on an innovative mathematics program for elementary school students and to benefit from his many talents—ability to translate his sound mathematical background to the writers, skill in editing, willingness to learn from teachers, sincere respect for all involved, and a joy of life that he shared with us."

Tina Straley, Executive Director of the Mathematical Association of America said that the MAA has long profited from John Harvey's work in the use of technology in teaching and in placement testing. “Together with John Kenelly, John Harvey has been heading a major initiative for the MAA to provide modernized and accurate placement testing for college mathematics. This project in collaboration with MapleSoft shows that all through his life John was an innovator and trailblazer.”

John Kenelly, Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Clemson University said, "John was a moving force in the nation's integration of technology in mathematics education. He was very influential in the moves to integrate the use of calculators in the SAT and Advanced Placement testing programs of the College Board where he served on their Council of College Level Services.”

John Harvey retired from Wisconsin in 2001 and moved to New Orleans to join his sister Sarah Harvey Wilkinson and her husband Jim. His outside interests included music, both listening and singing, and fine wines.

News Date: 
Wednesday, May 9, 2007