West Virginia, The New Dominion, Land of Opportunity and Achievement

Henry W. Gould
 Professor Emeritus
Department of Mathematics
 West Virginia University

    In 1776 the 13 American colonies revolted against the English Crown, largely because of taxation without representation. Thus began the American Revolution, and the United States of America was born, our freedom later being codified in the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The War of 1812 settled the issue and we became free of British rule. But other troubles lay ahead . . . civil war.

    As early as 1820 the transmontane settlers, the mountaineers in the western counties of Virginia, began to complain that they were being treated by the Richmond government in similar fashion, i.e. taxation without representation, tax monies being sent to the eastern counties and nothing being done to build roads, schools, prisons, etc, for the western counties. By 1860, the slavery issue dominated politics in the South and led to the Civil War. The mountaineers were totally fed up with the Richmond government and refused to go with the Confederacy and voted to stay with the Union. The new State of West Virginia was born on 20 June 1863. The State adopted the motto "Montani semper liberi" . . . Mountaineers are always free. It is ironic that the Virginia motto is "Sic semper tyrannus" . . . thus always to tyrants. Et tu, Brute?

    Our present West Virginia University was established in 1867. Many people left the Old Dominion (Virginia) and came to the New Dominion (West Virginia), seeing it as a Land of Opportunity, where one might achieve something. Most of my mother's family migrated from Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, to Charleston in Kanawha County around 1870. It was a three or four day trip, up the James River, across the Braddock Trail (later U.S. Route 40 and now Interstate 68), and down the Ohio River. And they did prosper. Members of our family (the Temples and Brawleys) have been sheriffs, have served in the West Virginia Legislature, have had top positions with the Division of Motor Vehicles, and a cousin of mine established the Bank of Nitro. I located here in 1958, and was able to build a career I do not think I could have achieved in the Old Dominion. The State of West Virginia and West Virginia University have championed human rights, without being mired down in the politics of the Old South.

    More civil freedom seems to have developed in the New Dominion. Women could study at West Virginia University over a hundred years ago, whereas women were not allowed as undergraduate students at the University of Virginia until around 1976. Race was not as big an issue here as in the Old Dominion. West Virginia University awarded a master's degree in mathematics to a woman of color in the 1940's, a long time before the United States Supreme Court ruled against segregation.

    Here at West Virginia University much progress has been achieved for human rights and assistance to other countries. Our University helped to develop agricultural programs in Tanzania forty-odd years ago, and Robert F. Munn, the late Dean of WVU Libraries, made at least 12 trips to countries all over Africa helping to set up libraries for colleges and schools.

    I  maintain that cooperation in mathematics research and education between the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China began right here at West Virginia University in 1965 when Professor L. C. Hsu, then at Jilin University, Changchun, PRC, wrote to me and suggested that we collaborate on research. This was fully seven years before U. S. President Richard M. Nixon made his memorable trip to meet Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (Zedong Mao). We published a major paper in 1973 right after Jimmy Carter became U. S. President and the USA and PRC formally established diplomatic relations. I was flattered to become an associate editor of a new Chinese mathematics journal published at Dalian University of Technology. Dr. Hsu visited here several times, being my house guest the first time. We have since had hundreds of Chinese mathematics students come to study at West Virginia University, and we have several excellent Chinese mathematics professors on our faculty.

    In mathematics, WVU early on had two women professors: Margaret Buchanan Cole (1885-1959) and Bird Margaret Turner (1877-1962). I well remember meeting both of them.

Margaret Buchanan received her A. B. at WVU in 1906, her A .M. at WVU in 1917. and Ph. D. at Bryn Mawr in 1922, and took other graduate study at Chicago and at the Sorbonne in Paris. She taught at WVU from 1922 to 1929 and then again from 1938 to 1955. She did not publish but was an accomplished teacher.

Bird Turner received her A.B. at WVU in 1915, her A. M. at WVU in 1917, and Ph. D. at  Bryn Mawr in 1920. She was school principal of Moundsville High School, 1926-17, and was an instructor at the University of Illinois,1920-23. She then taught at WVU, 1923-1947.
Professor Turner published several research papers on geometry. Click on this URL to read her biography: <http://www.agnesscott.edu/Lriddle/women/turner.htm>

Until the current doctoral program was established, the hiring of top-notch faculty from out-of-state was almost impossible, so that staffing for many decades was by native talent from West Virginia trained at WVU itself. Things have changed, and the faculty now has representation from numerous other states and countries. West Virginia University is no longer provincial, but truly international in character.

    West Virginia University has produced some truly outstanding graduates in mathematics, and the author asks humbly to be forgiven as he reminisces about a few of these mathematics students he has known and worked with in his 49-year career as a professor at WVU. This is not an all-inclusive list, but just a sampling of opportunities and successes.

Addison M. Fischer, B.A., 1970, M.A. 1972, math.,
    Expert on security of computer data, founded five companies, made major contributions to U.S. security,     major efforts to save Amazon rain forests, is helping protect the oceans, and built a school in Naples,
    Florida. With his knowledge of computer software he made $16,000,000 within 10 years of graduating
    from WVU.
    In Feb. 2010 he was inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
    See photos posted here on my web page.

Thomas Ashland Chapman, B.A., math., June 1962.
    Ph.D. Louisiana State Univ., 1970.
    He proved the invariance of Whitehead torsion. Was at the Institute for Advanced Study
    shortly after receiving his Ph.D, Taught at Univ. of Kentucky, now retired.
    As an undergraduate student at WVU he worked out a generalization of the Kuratowski
    closure problem; it was published in the Mathematics Magazine,

Thomas Ray Nicely, B.S. 1963, M.S. 1965.
    Ph.D., applied mathematics Univ. of Virginia, 1971.
    Expert on twin prime gaps. In 1994 he discovered the errors in the Intel Pentium chip that
    forced IBM to recall millions of computers. Made Time Magazine for this work.
    Taught many years at Lynchburg College, Virginia, now retired but very active,

Louis Worthy Kolitsch, B.S.,Fairmont State College, 1979; M.S., math., WVU, 1981,
     Ph.D., Penn. State Univ. 1985. Professor at University of Tennessee at Martin.
     Early on found a recursive formula for the number of partitions of a natural number.

Richard Lynn Stalnaker, B.S., aerospace engineering, 1964.
     As a calculus student he worked out his own proof the Kuratowski closure problem.
     Now has his own  consulting firm. Can be considered as an early "rocket boy."

Allen Taylor Hopper, B.S., Allegheny College,1959; M.D., WVU, 1961.
     Ph.D. Case Institute (Now Case-Western Reserve Univ.), 1965.
     First master's thesis student I directed; work that led to my NSF grants on combinatorial
Michael J. Kuchinski,     M.S. degree, WVU., 1977 on Correspondences between Catalan
     Among other things he has developed "VERDICT: A distributed virtual environment for
     system engineering,"explained in his book by this name. Works at Dahlgren, Va. with
     U.S. Naval Research.

Temba Shonhiwa, Ph.D., WVU on number theory. Extended my 1964 work on the
     relation between binomial coefficients and the bracket function. See Memorial article about
     his life and work on this web page.

Thelma West, Bachelor and Master degrees from WVU. Receives Departmental Alumni Recognition
     Award from the Eberly College of WVU 1 May 2010.

    It is interesting to observe that prior to the establishment of our current Ph.D. program we sent students to other universities to get their doctorates. Some years ago when the University of Wisconsin built a new mathematics building they asked WVU to send a speaker to be at the dedication of the building. They told us they did this because we had sent so many excellent mathematics students to their program. This again shows that there has always been an opportunity for success coming out of our programs here in West Virginia.

Revised 30 April 2010