Changing of the guard

Oct 10, 2008

An impending retirement heralds a change at Kettering as beloved math professor "Doc" Green prepares to retire at the end of the calendar year.

With 31 years of service under his belt, Dr. David Green, professor of Mathematics, has been a fixture at Kettering for students since 1977, mentoring many of them through advanced Mathematics classes and teaching in Kettering’s award-winning pre-college program Academically Interested Minorities (AIM).

Doc Green – a long legacy

“I came in the middle of a six-week term, taking over a class from Professor Duane McKeachie,” said Green of his first assignment at Kettering (then GMI). McKeachie was department chair at the time.

Green has seen a lot of changes at the University in 31 years. There are more minority students and faculty, the name has changed and students’ ability to do analytical calculations without a calculator has waned. But it is the students he speaks of the most when reflecting on his career, rattling off names of outstanding students he has worked with and still keeps in touch with.

He recently talked with Kari (Bandurski) Perry who met her husband Michael Perry in Green’s Differential Equations class. Perry told Green the couple recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. It is those stories that bring up memories and names of more students. “I had many students that were outstanding, that I think about often. They were the reason I enjoyed teaching, they were solid students,” he said.

In 1984 Green had an opportunity to help launch the AIM program started by Former faculty member Reginald Armstrong. “I was one of the first faculty members to teach the program,” he said, “along with Dr. Petros Gheresus and Dr. Robert McAllister.” All three continue to serve as faculty for the program.

After Armstrong left, Green ran the AIM program for seven years in addition to his teaching load. As faculty for AIM teaching the math component, Green has seen a lot of phenomenal students come through the program. “One of our first students has a Ph.D. in Physics and another earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering,” he said.

Green also served as head of the Math and Science Department until 2008. “I am very appreciative of the opportunity former Provost Dr. John Lorenz gave me to serve as department head,” said Green.

He first came to Kettering after working for a year at Michigan State University where he had earned a master’s degree in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics. Prior to that he earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri at Columbiain Nuclear Engineering Physics and a bachelor’s degree from Florida A & M in Mathematics.

Good at math from childhood, Green said he first thought of pursuing a career in Mathematics after fourth grade. He attended a three-room school in his hometown of Monticello, Fla., where his third and fourth grade teacher asked him to help tutor his peers in math because he caught on fast to lessons.

The son of a logger, Green was the first in his family to go to college, paying his own way through by working summers and during school terms. “My Dad worked in logging for many years getting up at 4 a.m. to walk 10 miles to catch logging truck to work,” said Green, admitting he has come a long way from rural Florida to a Ph.D. in Mathematics attending international conferences.

When he came to Kettering the original plan was to stay three to four years and then move on to a major university to do research. But his wife, Evelyn, had other ideas. They met in graduate school where she was studying Chemistry. By the time he was finishing his Ph.D. Evelyn was establishing herself as a faculty member at Lansing Community College.

Green decided he had the best of many worlds at Kettering due to its proximity to MSU for research opportunities with his former thesis adviser, and connections to corporate America through Kettering. “I was able to make a lot of academic connections through my contacts at MSU and network with researchers around the country and was able to stay at Kettering and keep my wife happy with a steady job,” he said.

When he retires at the end of the year, Green will join his wife, who retired three years ago, travelling to visit daughter Alysia, a doctor for the medical clinic at Boston University developing their sports medicine program, and daughter Melissa, an attorney with General Electric, serving as general counsel in the company’s aviation division.

When not travelling, Green wants to explore his ancestral heritage. He plans to research the stories of his family and hometown community. “My paternal grandfather was reputed to have been very good in math,” he said, “which is probably where I got it.” Part of his informal research is to host a community picnic every year in Monticello, to gather people for food and conversation and to say thank you to the community that supported him in his early years.

He will also tackle some mathematical problems that interest him to keep active in Mathematical research – and he’ll do it “old school” performing analytical calculations without the aid of a calculator. “I may use a computer to do a series of calculations, but I prefer to do the math myself,” said Green.

He is also dusting off his passport to attend an international Mathematics conference in Moscow in June, organized by a friend and former colleague.

Wherever his path takes him, Green is sure to be found mentoring and teaching and playing with numbers. Of his tenure at Kettering, Green said “I hope I lived up to the expectations of Dr. Cottingham when he hired me.”

Written by Dawn Hibbard