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News @ Minnesota State University Moorhead

Founding mother of department of mathematics dies

Posted on November 01, 2013

Marion V. Smith, 93, passed on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at the Shepherd of the Valley Healthcare Center. A native of St. Paul Minn., she had retired as professor emerita from Moorhead State University, where she taught mathematics from 1945 to1982. As a hobbyist photographer she enjoyed summer vacations touring the world’s exotic locals, which resulted in many awards.

In 1957 Marion V. Smith (1945-1982 M.A., University of Minnesota) was “the Mathematics Department”.  This title was inherited from Katharine Leonard (1906-1944).  This title was actually a misnomer since the Mathematics Department, as now construed, did not officially come into existence until 1960.  In 1957 Dr. Genevieve King was the chair of the Department of Science and Mathematics and Marion Smith was the member of the department in charge of mathematical “content” courses.  Marion assisted on a part-time basis with the teaching of pre-calculus courses and mathematical methods course for elementary and secondary teachers by (among others) Shelda Jacobson (Warren), a mathematics instructor in the college’s campus high school.  Then, the mathematics major, requiring 36 quarter credits, was not limited by Marion’s abilities, but rather by the hours in a day. Until 1966, when teaching loads were reduced to 12 hours per week, it was not unusual to tech 18, 20 or even more hours per week, of which Marion frequently did. Despite the limitations of a one person department several of Marion’s students later earned graduate degrees and went on to have successful college and university teaching careers. In 1960 the Department of Mathematics was formed with Marion as the chairperson and the full-time faculty numbered two when Everett Warren joined the department. In the early sixties Marion led the way in updating the department’s curriculum. She frequently attended NSF Summer Institutes and upon returning, introduced new courses into the curriculum. Marion started courses in probability and statistics, abstract and linear algebra, advanced calculus, real analysis, number theory and computer programming. Along with Everett Warren, Intro to Mathematics and Mathematics for Elementary Teachers were also started.  Upon Marion’s retirement in 1982, the Department of Mathematics had increased to 19 tenured or tenure tracked faculty members.


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