Melvin Thornton, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, died May 30. He was 84.
Thornton was born July 2, 1935, to Phil and Ruth Thornton in Sioux City, Iowa. He graduated from Storm Lake (Iowa) High School in 1953 and received a Navy scholarship to the University of Nebraska, where he majored in mathematics and met his future wife, Rosemary.
After graduation in 1957, Thornton spent two years in the Navy, serving as a lieutenant junior grade on the Calvert, a troop transport ship. He and Rosemary married in 1958. The couple later moved to Champaign, Illinois, where Mel earned a doctoral degree from the University of Illinois. He taught at the University of Wisconsin before joining the Husker faculty.
Thornton flourished at Nebraska. His passion for mathematics inspired his students’ learning. He reached beyond traditional students with his leadership of the Nebraska Math Scholars and Western Math Scholars, teacher-enhancement programs for secondary mathematics teachers. He received the university’s Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Activity Award and was named Nebraska Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation in 1994. He was also inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 1995. He retired in 2000.
Survivors include his wife; son Jeff and wife Karen; son Joel and wife Melissa; son Jay and wife Crystal; daughter Jennifer Thornton-Kolbe and husband Charles; 11 grandchildren; twin brother Manly and wife Peg; sister Mary Ruth Turner; brother-in-law Gary Weeks and wife Jane; sister-in-law E.J. Weeks; nieces and nephews.
A private graveside service will be held. Donations can be made to the Melvin Thornton family for future designation. A family obituary can be viewed and condolences can be left online.