|Dr. Klein retired in May 2008
May 28, 2008
Although some lucky Finite Math students will be taught by Professor Ben Klein this fall 2008, he officially retired in May after 37 years on the Davidson faculty. He is helping the department this fall only, while Mossinghoff and Neidinger are on sabbatical. Professor Klein was honored at a college-wide retirement event and at a departmental dinner where he was presented with a book of letters from former students, colleagues and friends. At the May faculty meeting, Chair Rich Neidinger read the following.
A Tribute to Benjamin G. Klein
Benjamin G. Klein is a gentle giant among faculty who have served this College so well. Indeed, he is sometimes referred to as 'Gentle Ben,' a label characterized by a phrase I’ve overheard him say many times in the following scenario. A bewildered student will be in Ben’s office hour, getting patient help from the master. Finally, the student will get it, and correctly accomplish the task at hand. Ben’s response is a booming exclamation “Good for you!” as he beams proudly. This may be the only pride that you see in this humble man who is always focused on what is best for others, including our students, Department, College, mathematics profession, as well as family, church and community. While helping us, Ben has had an illustrious career of achievements.
Though born in Durham, North Carolina, Ben grew up on Long Island. He earned a B.A. from the University of Rochester and M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. He taught for a few years at New York University when he met his wife Rosemary, now a public school teacher of her own renown. Ben came to Davidson College in 1971, 37 years ago, and he and Rosemary arranged for his anniversaries and years-of-service to match exactly. Within the next five years, he they had two sons David and Peter.
To give you an idea of Ben’s importance to the College and our profession, just consider three of his awards: the Thomas Jefferson Award from Davidson College (in 1990); the W.W. Rankin Award for Excellence in Mathematics Education from the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (in 2007); and the Distinguished Service Award from the Mathematical Association of America, Southeastern Section (in 2008).
In service to the College, Ben has served in virtually every possible capacity for a faculty member. His committee work ranges from Love-of-Learning to Faculty Tenure and from 1985 Strategic Planning to Chambers Renovation. Ben has served on numerous search committees from Chaplain to President. Not only has he been Chair of the Department of Mathematics, but he was Vice Chair of the Faculty Pro-Tem, and served as Acting Dean of the Faculty for one semester in 1993. His term was the opposite of a power grab as he managed the demands of the office but humbly deferred to the permanent administration for policy. However, I’m personally sure that many committees have heard opinions from Ben, sometimes not even his own. If there is a remote possibility of some opinion or occurrence, I can hear Ben say “Now I’m not advocating for this position, but someone could say...”. Seriously, many have commented on their appreciation of his discernment in faculty meetings and others settings.
Then there is Davidson’s Teacher Education Committee where Ben has served for over 30 years, most of them as Chair. Ben was Interim Chair of the Department of Education for at least one year. This devotion to developing teachers of high-school mathematics led to much activity, including regular presentations at their conferences. Ben Klein and Irl Bivens coauthored the State High School Mathematics Contest for a full decade and resumed again a couple of years ago. For the NC Department of Public Instruction, Ben was Chair in 1983 and member in 1993 of a mathematics curriculum committee. For the College Board Advanced Placement Program for Calculus, Ben has been a grading leader, a test development committee member, and a consultant for their website content.
For the MAA, the Mathematical Association of America, Ben has been involved at the highest levels. Ben was a Governor of the MAA from 2003 to 2006; Governors are like a national board of directors where Ben represented our Southeastern Section. Ben was previously Chair of the Section. The national MAA publishes three journals, and for one of them, The College Mathematics Journal, Ben was a co-editor of the Problems & Solutions Section for five years.
This betrays another of Ben’s loves, the good-old math problem that challenges and provides insights. He solves them, creates them, edits them, and shares them. His cohort is often Irl Bivens, with whom he shares many common interests, including B-movies and $5 all-you-can-eat buffets, but most especially a love of problems and problem solving. At a conference just a little over a month ago, I heard a masterful talk by Ben on his latest discovery while working on a math problem. I don’t know which was more impressive, the interesting mathematical insight or Ben’s youthful enthusiasm at the truly surprising result.
This brings us back to Ben’s teaching. His awards include three more: the NC Professor of Year (in 1991) by CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education), the Distinguished Teaching Award from the MAA SE Section (in 1999); and the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award from Davidson College (in 2004). Maybe it has something to do with his embrace of technology. As calculators matured, Ben enjoyed staying on the cutting edge, and he is duly proud of the spreadsheet skills that his Finite Math students learn while using it as a tool in their study. However, his thorough instruction and people skills are probably more to the point. Generations have appreciated Ben’s patience and caring, just like I do when I need someone to listen and provide counsel.
In summary, let me say to Ben, “Good for you! Your service has certainly been good for us!”
Posted By: Rich Neidinger