John Mackey Wins William H. and Francis S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching
By Jocelyn Duffy
What could cause majors and non-majors alike to pack a mathematics lecture hall? Or recruit the best young mathletes to attend Carnegie Mellon? Or contribute to the number of math majors at CMU to almost doubling in 10 years?
“Call it the ‘Mackey Effect’,” said Eric Grotzinger, associate dean for undergraduate affairs at the Mellon College of Science, referring to this year’s recipient of Carnegie Mellon University’s William H. and Francis S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching, John Mackey, teaching professor and associate department head of mathematical sciences. Mackey will receive the award at the University Celebration of Education ceremony on April 30.
While many factors have contributed to the Mathematical Sciences Department’s recent successes, many believe that it’s no coincidence that the number of students taking math courses and choosing to major in math have skyrocketed since Mackey joined the CMU faculty in 2003.
“John is a phenomenon in the classroom, a caring mentor and a relentless advocate for quality undergraduate education,” said Tom Bohman, Alexander M. Knaster E’1980 Professor and Department Head of Mathematical Sciences.
Mackey was singled out by his nominators for his enthusiasm for math and teaching, and his dedication to all students. He helps any student that might be struggling in a math class, not just the ones he teaches. He also spends countless hours recruiting the best mathematical minds to come to CMU and advising the Math Club.
Mackey helped to reinvent the first-year Concepts of Mathematics course, which is now often referred to simply as “Concepts with Mackey.” Under his direction, the course, which is intended to be the introductory math course for mathematical sciences, computer science and electrical and computer engineering majors, is now a sought-after elective for students of all majors. Mackey’s classes, large and small, often have waiting lists and rarely have an empty seat.
“John is overflowing with passion for mathematics, and this passion simply bleeds into anyone who has the pleasure of taking a class with him,” said Douglas Sterling (S ’11). “He just makes math fun.”