Carnegie Mellon University
April 20, 2023

Bill Hrusa Wins 2023 Robert E. Doherty Award

The honor recognizes the longtime professor of mathematics for his sustained contributions to excellence in education

By Heidi Opdyke

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Carnegie Mellon University's Bill Hrusa is as much a magician as he is a mathematician.

"Bill is the magician hidden behind the curtain that makes everything happen so that students can explore their full potential," said Carnegie Mellon University alumna Xiaofei Shi, who wrote one of the many letters of support that led to Hrusa being awarded the 2023 Robert E. Doherty Award for Sustained Contributions to Excellence in Education.

As a graduate student at CMU during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shi saw how Hrusa put magic into his lessons and his mentoring.

"His commitment to education and student development at graduate and undergraduate levels is unparalleled, and his influence to students is one of a kind," said Shi, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

Hrusa joined Carnegie Mellon as an assistant professor in 1982 and has been at the Pittsburgh campus save for three semesters in the 1980s when he was a visiting faculty member at the Math Research Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Bill cares deeply about our students' learning and the educational enterprise at large," wrote Amy Burkert, vice provost for education. "He has had a tangible positive impact on the education of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students. He has also shaped and reshaped curricular practices and transformative educational programs."

Hrusa's impact on the mathematics curriculum at Carnegie Mellon and other institutions where alumni teach has been incalculable. When he designs or codesigns a course, Hrusa provides materials to subsequent instructors that become a part of institutional memory. Stephen Pankavich, a professor of applied mathematics and statistics at the Colorado School of Mines, recalls taking Hrusa's course Calculus of Variations.

"The course materials (notes, homework, exams) that he constructed for this class have been widely used for the past two decades to teach similar undergraduate and graduate courses at other major research universities," said Pankavich, who is a triple graduate of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Mathematical Sciences with a bachelor's of science degree in 2000, a master's degree in 2001 and a doctorate in 2005.

Pankavich also attended the Summer Undergraduate Applied Mathematics Institute (SUAMI) in 1998 as a junior. Hrusa has been a crucial part of SUAMI since its inception in 1992; the program provides research opportunities for students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in mathematics.

"Bill Hrusa changed my life in an overwhelmingly positive manner, and I am forever grateful for his insight and direction," Pankavich said.

Along with teaching, Hrusa has served in administrative positions in the Department of Mathematical Sciences including as interim head, associate head and director of graduate studies. He currently directs the Bachelor of Science in Computational Finance (BSCF) program.

Martin Larsson, a professor of mathematics and a member of the steering committee for the Master of Science in Computational Finance (MSCF) program, wrote that the BCSF program has flourished under Hrusa's guidance. Along with directing the BSCF program, Hrusa is the academic advisor for Carnegie Mellon's Quant Club and helps organize events such as quantitative problem-solving competitions, panel discussions with alumni and industry figures and mock interviews. Many of the events have become traditions, he added, thanks to Hrusa's advice, enthusiasm and guidance.

"There is now a vibrant and diverse community of students with a broad interest in computational finance," Larsson said. "Bill's efforts have also propelled the program's external reputation to ever greater heights. BSCF students routinely secure internships and full-time positions at top banks such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Barclays, Citi, Morgan Stanley, etc., as well as prestigious trading?firms like Jump Trading, Jane Street and others. This success can be attributed in large part to Bill."

The Doherty Award is Hrusa's latest accolade for teaching. He previously won the university's William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching and Barbara Lazarus Award as well as the Mellon College of Science's Julius Ashkin Award and the Richard Moore Award. During his career, Hrusa has supervised six Ph.D. students, three honors master's students and well over 100 undergraduate research students.

"I am grateful to have a job that I really love for more than 40 years where I have had the opportunity to interact with wonderful students and colleagues," Hrusa said.

A professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Hrusa holds bachelor's of science degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering from Syracuse University. He went on to earn a master's degree and Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Brown University.