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
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