Jim Lewis, director of UNL’s Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, will receive the Mathematical Association of America’s highest award for service at a Jan. 11 session of the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio.
The association will present Lewis with the Gung and Hu Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics, which annually honors extraordinary contributions that have shaped mathematics and mathematical education on a national scale.
“One thing that really stands out when I consider this award is that the list of former winners includes so many people I admire as giants in the mathematics profession,” said Lewis, an Aaron Douglas Professor of mathematics. “It is quite humbling to be recognized by one’s peers as worthy of this award.”
Lewis previously served as chair of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, a national umbrella organization that fosters collaboration among 17 professional societies dedicated to promoting research, improving education and expanding applications of mathematics.
He also headed a committee that oversaw the creation of “The Mathematical Education of Teachers,” one of several standard-bearing reports on teacher preparation and professional development to which he has contributed.
“My father was a physics teacher who benefited from participation in one of the original National Science Foundation institutes in the late 1950s,” Lewis said. “I’ve always felt that one of the most important ways that I could contribute as a mathematician is to create opportunities for K-12 teachers to learn mathematics and become better educators.”
Under Lewis’ direction, the UNL Department of Mathematics won a 1998 National Science Foundation Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. During his 15-year tenure as the department’s chair, the proportion of doctorates awarded to women rose from zero to 40 percent in tandem with an overall increase in the number of doctorates granted.
“Jim has personally developed and supported the development of mathematics enrichment programs for K-12 students and teachers,” said Judy Walker, current chair of the department. “His work has made an enormous impact on the mathematical education of students both nationally and in Nebraska.
“He has also worked tirelessly to raise the profile of K-16 mathematics education concerns, including equity and diversity, in the larger mathematics community,” Walker said. “He is exceptionally worthy of this award.”