The Department of Mathematics has been a part of the University of Mississippi since the university opened its doors in 1848. At that time, the School of Mathematics, as it was called, patterned its mode of instruction after that of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Students were required to have nothing beyond a grasp of arithmetic to be admitted as freshmen. The curriculum stressed geometry and trigonometry. Calculus, now considered a freshman and sophomore course, was taken during the senior year.
After the turn of the century, the department expanded its curriculum. Courses were designed especially for students in business, engineering, and elementary education. More advanced topics were taught, and calculus became a sophomore or junior course.
Over the years, the department has continued to modify its course offerings and to expand its faculty in order to keep pace with advances in mathematical research in addition to technological improvements. At present, the department consists of seventeen regular faculty members and six instructors, including specialists in algebra, number theory, combinatorics, dynamical systems, approximation theory, functional analysis, topology, and statistics. The department’s current course offerings range from remedial courses to advanced research topics for doctoral students.
Originally, the department was housed in the Lyceum. Later, classes were held in Peabody Hall, and in 1964 it was moved to the new biology building, which was initially named for Alfred Hume. This building was renamed Shoemaker Hall in 1968 when Hume Hall, the present location of the department, was dedicated in honor of its long-time chair.
The department’s past faculty members include Frederick Barnard who later became Chancellor of the University, and L. Q. C. Lamar who became an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Alfred Hume, who served as chairman of the mathematics department for 51 years, also served the university as Acting Professor of Civil Engineering, Dean of Liberal Arts, and Chancellor. T. A. Bickerstaff was for many years a central figure on the University Athletic Committee. Glenn Hopkins served as Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts before being named chair of the department, and is currently serving as the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. In addition, these faculty members and others like them have provided quality instruction and have often been honored for their excellence. Several current faculty members have received campus-wide or liberal arts teaching awards, more than in any other department.
Mathematics graduates have had a notable record of success in business and professional life as well as in law school and graduate programs. According to the records of the University, the first Ph.D. in Mathematics was awarded to Eugene Harper Roberts in 1895 under the chairmanship of Alfred Hume. The regular Ph.D. program has been offered by the department since the Board of Trustees’ authorization in 1956. The first candidate into the program was accepted in 1963. The numerous students who have earned the doctor of philosophy degree in mathematics at Ole Miss hold jobs in the business world as well as in academia. Among the graduates who have become professors at other institutions, several have become chairs of mathematics or deans. From 2005 to 2009 alone, twenty three students graduated with PhD’s, and all of them obtained jobs ranging from research universities to government and industry positions. The program has recently gained national attention for its support of minority students and has been honored by the American Mathematical Society in 2009.
The department has attracted many external gifts of financial support. Several scholarships are offered to outstanding undergraduate mathematics majors. The Lin Endowment and Dalrymple Lecture Endowment are used to support the department’s activities. The Dalrymple Lecture, held regularly, has brought several luminaries to the university, including W. A. J. Luxemburg, Paul R. Halmos, and Andrew Odlyzko.
From its modest beginning in 1848, the department has evolved into a modern one emphasizing quality instruction in a research environment. The goal is to give every student, from freshmen enrolled in college algebra, to students in business calculus, to doctoral candidates, the firm foundation in mathematics that is necessary for success in today’s rapidly changing world. It is a department aware of the importance of both theory and applications, as it looks forward to further advancement in future.
1848-1854 Albert Bledsoe
1854-1858 Frederick Barnard
1858-1861 Jordan Phipps
1861-1865 University closed during the Civil War
1865-1889 (General) Claudius Sears
1889-1890 Henry Strude
1890-1926 Alfred Hume
1926-1930 Charles Wunder
1930-1932 Marce Rhodes
1932-1947 Alfred Hume
1947-1971 T. A. Bickerstaff
1971-1978 Roy Sheffield
1978-1983 Eldon Miller
1983-1989 Jim Porter
1989-1992 Eldon Miller
1992-1998 Glenn Hopkins
1998-2001 Eldon Miller
2001-2002 Gerard Buskes
2002-2003 Talmage James Reid
2003-2008 Tristan Denley
2008-2015 Iwo Labuda
2016-Present Talmage James Reid