Mathematics Department



Department of Mathematics - History

Math Department History


(Note: This document is a rough draft, prepared by Larry Saunders in 2006. It is a work in progress, but we thought it was useful, so we published it here.)

Beginning - Oct 25, 1972:

Prior to Spring Semester 1973 all the Math Courses at Ricks College were taught by members of the Math and Physics Department. The members of that department are listed in the table below. In addition to those listed, Alan Clark had come to Ricks College to teach math but by this time he had taken the job in Institutional Research, he continued with that assignment until his retirement from Ricks. Gordon Dixon was the chair of the Math and Physics Department and he ran the department from his military background; he made all assignments, including who taught what and all final decisions for the department. He was department chair for a lot of years, in those days that was common. Gordon was a tradition in his own right as a teacher, particularly Astronomy, a department chair and even a Bishop (he was the first Bishop of a student ward on campus). John L. Clarke was President of Ricks College until 1971, he served for twenty-nine years.

Henry B Eyring was Ricks College President when the Math Department was created, he came in the summer of 1971. Harry Maxwell was the Academic Dean. The year was 1972. The official date for the creation of the Math Department was Oct. 25, 1972. Fall semester math courses were assigned to faculty by Gordon Dixon, but under the leadership of David Allen the Math Department made a change. Here is an entry from Dave's journal:

"In October of the previous year (1972) I was appointed the first head of the mathematics department at Ricks College ... It has been a great challenge to learn to administer the affairs of an academic department in a higher education setting. I have taken the attitude that I will get along best with these men if I work with them in a consensus approach and I proceeded to operate in that fashion. The math department has the following men in it: Gordon Hoagland, Alden Partridge, Larry Saunders, Boyd Cardon, Jay Huber and Dewey Furness. We scheduled all the classes (for) spring semester by letting each man decide what he wanted to teach within the parameters of courses, numbers of sections offered and his colleagues desires ..."


The following table shows the faculty in the combined department with the number of math and physics classes taught by each faculty member Fall (1972) and Spring (1973) - the Spring 1973 column shows which faculty were in the math department after the split:


Campus Homes and faculty:

The first department chair's office was B-2 485, occupied by David Allen. Dave only served for about nine months though, when he became the director of Instructional Design, here is another comment from his journal:

As spring semester came to a conclusion the Ricks College administration published a list of positions that were going to be available for the new school year and that they would hope faculty members presently on the faculty could fill them. One of these positions, a new one, was Director of Instructional Design. The job would involve working with faculty members and designing new programs and promoting ideas and teaching innovations. I applied for the job ...


He got it.

Boyd Cardon became the new Math Department Chair with his office in B-2 150C. This was official for Fall Semester 1973 and all math faculty were moved to the B-2 building (the B-2 building was the second building constructed on Ricks College Campus and was also known as the Old Gym Building). By 1973 this building was 'old', it had a gym on the top floor and a swimming pool in the basement. Since the Hart Building was the new PE building, the gym in B-2 was not used by the college - it became our first math lab and all sections of Math 101 (Intermediate Algebra) were taught there using portable blackboards.

In the summer of 1976 the math department and all math faculty moved to the COB Building (now known as the Smith Building). Boyd was still the Chair and adjacent to his office, COB 111, was an office for our first full-time secretary, Melanie Lindsay. This then became the Math Department Office. Steve Terry joined our department at this time and except for Larry all faculty had offices on the first floor (Larry's office was COB 350). The Smith building was home until the Romney Building was remodeled with the top floor of the new addition designed especially for the Math Department. While in the Smith Building Dan Thomas, Dan Chiddix, Linda Long, and Wayne Startin joined the Department. Harold Nielsen also returned to teach math for a year (from 84 to 85) before he retired.


The office complex in the Romney was very elegant (it still is), we moved there for Fall Semester, 1987. Nannette South Larsen was our department secretary for our first year in the Romney Building, Lark Shattack Hillier then joined us for 6 Years in the Romney building before she took the job as secretary for the Biology department in May of 1995. At that point Ina Snell came to our department from the Registrar's office and stayed as our secretary until she retired in Oct 2002. Angela Donnelly moved upstairs from the Division Office when Ina left, as this history is being written (March 2006) Angela continues to serve as our secretary. Faculty to join our department during the Romney years include: Daris Howard, Scott Cooley (two years), Paul Cox, Kent Bessey, Greg Cameron, EJ Caffaro (eight years), Ann Marie Harris, Elizabeth Toy, Shane Goodwin, David Brown, Craig Johnson, Kevin Twitchel, Troy Goodsell, Bonnie Moon (two years full time), Jennifer Youngberg, David Stowell, Jeff Fletcher, Danial Howard, Richard Pieper, and Brent Timothy. While in the Romney we also had Daniel Balls, Ivan Ashcraft and Taylor Jenson come for one year appointments.


The last home for our department became a reality when it was decided to build the Thomas E Ricks Building. It was determined that History and Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, and Mathematics would share this new building because each of these departments teach a lot of students. Just before Christmas 2004 all members of the Math Department moved to new offices in the Thomas E Ricks Building; that move brought all of us together in the same complex again. All but five of the offices have large windows facing North (or West) with a wonderful view overlooking the Gardens and the Campus. On a clear day we can see the Centennial Mountains on the border of Idaho and Montana on the North or the on the West. Since moving to the Ricks building Paul Johanson and Ben Woodruff have joined our department and our one-year hires: Sean Bean and Heidi Eastman.


Department Chairs:

David Allen was our first Chair, he said Harold Nielsen had been asked but declined because of his interest in setting up the photography program. David only served for nine months, he was released when asked to be the Instructional Design Director for Ricks College. Dave's contribution was in setting the proper course direction, one of unity. Through the years Dave has always supported that direction with quiet competence himself and support for each of our department chairs as they have come on board. Dave was out of the department for just five years but during that time he was also the first Chairman for the new Agricultural Division, and served as an assistant to the dean of academic affairs (a job he fulfilled each summer during his tenure here).


Dave was also heavily involved in the interest the college had in ideas presented by Walter Gong. At first a committee of four was assigned to go to San Jose State University. Dave was selected along with Larry Thompson, Richard Stallings, and Noel Zaugg. After their return it was soon decided to have Walter come to Ricks, first to present a forum and then to give a two week training to twenty-six of our fulltime faculty. This training included Larry and Steve as well as Dave from the Math Department. After this initial training a team of Ricks College faculty: Dave Allen, Larry Saunders, Lynn Smith, Larry Thompson, and Steve Terry; was assigned to teach other faculty the next two summers. Thirty-six were trained in the summer of 1980, twenty-four in the summer of 1981.


Boyd Cardon became the second Chair in 1973. He served longer than any other Chair by one year. Boyd was another who knew how to focus on others rather than himself. Boyd carried forward the concept of Unity. While Boyd was department chair we moved from the Old Gym Building to COB (now Smith). On Boyd's watch Dave left our department for five years and then returned. Steve Terry was the only new hire under Boyd. Boyd's other significant contributions include: President of the Beehive Federal Credit Union and Member of the Board of Directors for several terms; he also was President of the faculty association giving that association greater meaning and purpose. Boyd has always had vision, he spoke of a temple in Rexburg before it was ever announced.


Gordon Hoagland became department chair in 1979. His service was completed while we were housed in the COB Building, it might have been during his tenure that the name of the building was officially changed to the Joseph Fielding Smith Building. It was appropriate that during Gordon's service, computers came onto the scene. Dan Thomas was hired to help with computers as Gordon became the department chair (Dan was interviewed under Boyd). Gordon's service to Ricks College computing was enormous; he was on every committee that had anything to do with computers in the classroom. Gordon understood the future of computers and computing as well as anyone at Ricks and he understood how to help others gain vision too.


Our fourth department chair was Alden Partridge, he began his service in 1984. Alden was the chair as plans were developed to move our department to the Romney Building. A new addition was built on the West side of the Romney and it was to house the Math Department on the second floor, the Geology Department on the first floor and the Photography Department in the basement along with the Division Chair's office. Alden participated significantly in the planning and brought all of us in on those plans (unity was still valued). We moved into the Romney building one year before Alden returned to teaching. During Alden's service three faculty were shifted from other departments to math. Harold Nielsen spent his last year at Ricks in the Math department, Wayne Startin came from the PE department to our department (though he continued to coach football), and Richard Hooton shared time between our department and Sociology. In addition Linda Long, Dan Chiddix, Scott Cooley and Daris Howard were new hires while only Harold Nielsen retired. Alden's great contributions were made without fanfare; give him an assignment and you never had to check back - it was always done and done very well.


Larry Saunders became the fourth chair. He moved into the corner office that was designated the department chair's office during the summer of 1989. He soon discovered that the administration and other departments on campus considered the Math Department THE Example of Unity; at every level of administration comments were often shared concerning that unity. It was also during Larry's tenure that Gordon Hoagland was diagnosed with cancer and following a valiant battle passed away on July 4th 1992. Gordon was our first charter member to pass his mortal test. Paul Cox came to our department in an interesting way during Larry's years. Scott Cooley received an offer to teach at BYU Hawaii and left us early in the summer of 1990, Paul had just graduated from University of Utah and since Larry and Paul are first cousins Larry knew he was available. An offer was made to Paul to come for just one year without the normal interviewing process (our first one-year hire). Paul accepted and when the position was made available the next spring Paul applied (Larry was kept out of the interviewing loop) and was hired full time. While Larry was chair two others joined our department as new hires: Kent Bessey and Greg Cameron (Shane Goodwin and Elizabeth Toy were interviewed).


Prior to Larry's term, Steve Terry became heavily involved in AMATYC and volunteered to chair the yearly conference in Calgary in late 1988. He asked Jay Huber to be his program chair and all went well until Jay decided to leave Ricks and take a position with the government at NSA in Baltimore, Maryland in May of 1988. Steve asked Larry to continue as program chair and so Larry got the glory that Jay had earned. By the way, Jay Huber never did seek glory, he only sought what was best for his students. In fact when Jay left Ricks he left his earnings from the Math Modules he had authored to be the used as the nest egg for a student scholarship and when Gordon passed away his wife, Louise, donated a nice contribution to be added to the fund's principle. That fund has become known as the Huber-Hoagland Scholarship Fund and the earnings continue to assist math students each semester.


Steve's involvement in AMATYC brought great opportunity for several members of our department. He organized and found funding for a first Ricks College/AMATYC Summer Institute. The first year was so successful that he invited Larry to help co-chair the Institute and it lasted for at least eight years. We had Math Teachers from all over the United States and some from Canada. Four of our faculty taught classes at different times; Larry, Dan Thomas, Gordon, and Paul (Larry has videos for a class taught by Harvey Fletcher Jr.). Everyone was sooo impressed with our campus and our students. Many wanted to know how they could get a job here; 'all you have to do is become a Mormon'. One participant was extra impressed, we were taking a break from class and observed the grounds department laying sod around the Romney addition; he asked if Ricks College had their own sod farm and before Larry could answer he said, "of course they do, they have everything". Each new group of participants were really affected by the spirit they felt here, many reasons were shared, but two nuns approached Steve and said we know why there is such a wonderful spirit here.


Steve Terry accepted the assignment to serve as our fifth department chair. He liked his end office so well that he chose not to trade offices with Larry for his five years. Our department grew more during Steve's tenure than any previous five years: EJ Caffaro came to us from the PE department and Shane Goodwin, Elizabeth Toy (Elizabeth came for three years initially while Boyd served as Mission President), David Brown, Craig Johnson, and Kevin Twitchell joined the department as new hires. Often you would see Steve sitting on the stand at Devotionals, he selected the students who gave the prayers. Steve also contributed to the community, he was on the airport board and he even served as a Docent at a museum in Idaho Falls - what can be said, "Steve Loved People".


Linda Long was our first woman chair and she was exceptional. She began serving Fall Semester 1999. Before she finished she retired Dewey, Alden and Dan Chiddix; split the department into the Math and Computer Science departments (only Greg and Kevin left us); and directed with help from many of the department the transition from a two year program to four years. Along with those changes Ann Marie Harris, Troy Goodsell (our first Doctorate), Jennifer Youngberg, David Stowell, Danial Howard, Jeff Fletcher and Bonnie Moon (Bonnie came while Craig went after his Doctorate) joined our department. Linda also began the one year hires, hiring Daniel Balls and Taylor Jensen. As Linda finished her tenure as department chair she retired. For several years Linda had also been serving on the Standards Committee and she was also a Service Missionary at the Family History Center on Campus (she got Larry serving there as well).


Currently Paul Cox serves as our department chair, our seventh. He began his service Jan 2004 while we were yet housed in the Romney. The night before he was appointed, his mother (Larry's Aunt) asked Larry to help keep Paul from being selected so he could finish his degree - Larry failed. One year later we moved to the Ricks Building. Our new hires under Paul are: Richard Pieper, Brent Timothy, Ben Woodruff and Paul Johanson. Boyd Cardon, Steve Terry and Linda Long have retired and one year hires have been Ivan Ashcraft, Daniel Balls (a second year), Sean Bean, and Heidi Eastman.


Contributions to the Campus Community:

The Math Department has furnished many leaders and members for campus programs and committees through the years. The service includes: Faculty Association - President (Boyd), other responsibilities (Larry, Shane, ); Computers - Gordon and Daris;