50 years of teach­ing math adds up for U of L pro­fes­sor

LONG­EST-SERV­ING PROF AT U OF L TO RE­CEIVE HON­ORARY DOC­TOR OF LAWS DE­GREE

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Dave Ma­bell LETH­BRIDGE HER­ALD

Be­ing trapped by a spring bliz­zard, for most Aus­tralians, would lead to a fast de­par­ture for warmer climes.

But not for Dennis Con­nolly. While wait­ing for roads to clear af­ter Leth­bridge’s record 1967 snow­fall, he de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate news of a brand-new univer­sity open­ing here.

Armed with an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in math­e­mat­ics from the Univer­sity of Syd­ney, a master’s de­gree from West­ern Univer­sity in Lon­don, Ont. — and weather de­layed en route to Van­cou­ver and a flight home — he walked over to the univer­sity’s tem­po­rary southside cam­pus in hopes of be­com­ing an in­struc­tor.

“I liked the look of the town straight away,” he says, be­cause it seemed not that dif­fer­ent from his home­town Wagga Wagga, an agri­cul­ture-based com­mu­nity in the heart of Aus­tralia’s ir­ri­ga­tion farm­land.

He won a po­si­tion and to­day — 50 years later — Con­nolly still en­joys teach­ing math at U of L and get­ting to know his stu­dents. Though he’s look­ing for­ward to trav­els this sum­mer, Con­nolly plans to be back in the class­room this fall.

But first, he’ll be join­ing stu­dents and fac­ulty mem­bers at month’s end for an­nual spring con­vo­ca­tion cer­e­monies. And this time, he’ll be step­ping for­ward to ac­cept an hon­orary Doc­tor of Laws de­gree from chan­cel­lor Jan­ice Varzari.

“Dennis has shown out­stand­ing com­mit­ment to this in­sti­tu­tion and its stu­dents,” she says. “That makes him a per­fect am­bas­sador to the com­mu­nity at large.”

She cites Con­nolly’s decades of sup­port for Pronghorns sports teams, for the univer­sity’s drama pro­duc­tions — along with his wife Kate, pro­ducer of the city’s “Shake­speare in the Park” — and the U of L “Sup­port­ing our Stu­dents” ini­tia­tive.

Con­nolly is the only mem­ber of the univer­sity’s orig­i­nal fac­ulty who’s still teach­ing, and explains he has no plans to re­tire. He even en­joys mark­ing ex­ams, he ad­mits.

Though he teaches 100 to 150 stu­dents each se­mes­ter, Con­nolly makes an ef­fort to get to know each one. And when his stu­dents hand in their exam pa­pers, “I can’t wait to get into them to see how they’ve done.”

While Con­nolly has pub­lished works on sta­tis­tics, prob­a­bil­ity, casino odds — and one of his favourite top­ics, tide ta­bles — he’s al­ways cher­ished his time in the class­room.

“I re­ally en­joy the teach­ing,” he says. “Most of the stu­dents are very grate­ful,” as they master new ma­te­rial.

“I try to pass on my en­thu­si­asm,” he adds. “I re­ally do love math and its ap­pli­ca­tions.”

Con­nolly loves ex­plo­ration and travel as well, hav­ing driven the Alaska and Demp­ster High­ways to the Arc­tic and climbed the Klondike gold­min­ers’ Chilkoot Trail.

Here at home, he’s been ac­tive in squash and golf­ing over the years, and served as pres­i­dent of the Leth­bridge Golf and Coun­try Club when it was ex­pand­ing to 18 holes.

He’s ready to re­turn to Alaska briefly this sum­mer, aboard a cruise ship from Van­cou­ver. Later he’ll be head­ing to Ore­gon to ob­serve a to­tal so­lar eclipse on Aug. 21.

But Con­nolly is also look­ing for­ward to meet­ing new stu­dents in the fall. Most take their course work se­ri­ously, he re­ports.

“They’re pay­ing to be there,” so they’re mo­ti­vated. “I find them very re­spect­ful.” Fol­low @DMa­bel­lHer­ald on Twit­ter

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