Global EngagementUC HomeAbout UCUC AcademicsUC AdmissionsUC AthleticsUC GlobalUC HealthUC LibrariesUC ResearchNews


2009 Faculty Senate University Service Award: Larry Gilligan

For mathematics professor Larry Gilligan, university and collegiate service adds up to opportunities for learning, growth and giving back.

Date: 5/21/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot   Many of Larry Gilligan’s math students ask whether class material will be on the final exam – in other words: “Will it count?”
Larry Gilligan
Larry Gilligan

Gilligan never asks that question when considering the needs of his department, the College of Applied Science or the university. And it’s why he has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the Faculty Senate’s University Service Award.

He explained, “Professional service is fulfilling. It rounds me out. I would feel empty without it.”

“When people ask me why I want to be so involved, I say, ‘Why not?’ I’d rather be involved in the university and in decision making rather than regret it later and complain that I didn’t have a role,” Gilligan added.

And the roles that Gilligan, professor of mathematics, has filled have been many and varied, since he first joined UC 25 years ago. These include service as

  • Chair of the CAS Department of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Technology.
  • Chair of the CAS Student Services Committee.
  • Membership on the CAS Dean’s Search Committee and chairmanship of numerous faculty search committees and department head search committees.
  • CAS associate dean of academic affairs.
  • Acting assistant department head of mathematics when the college founded the Center for Access and Transition in 2004.

Within the wider university setting, Gilligan has filled roles such as

  • Member of the UC American Association of University Professors board.
  • Faculty senator, including chairing the Faculty Senate’s Budget and Priorities Committee.
  • Member of the Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee.
  • Guest speaker at the freshman orientation program.

The one shortcoming of such an impressive list of service is that it cannot convey the generous spirit, easy camaraderie, concern for others and signature humor that Gilligan brings to his many leadership roles, including that of mentoring young faculty members.

For instance, when CAS opened its Center for Access and Transition in 2004, many of the faculty in that unit were either new to UC or new to university teaching. That being the case, Gilligan volunteered to coordinate the CAT’s mathematics program and to lead and mentor the new faculty, according to Paul Jones, CAS assistant professor of mathematics.
Lynnice North and Larry Gilligan
Larry Gilligan, right, with first-year mechanical engineering technology student Lynnice North.

Said Jones, “Larry’s leadership and mentorship laid a solid foundation for every new mathematics faculty member, including me. Larry was instrumental in helping to guide me through the early days of my career here at UC. His door was always open, and he always gave advice that was in my best interest. Of course, he did this not just for me but for everyone who sought out his advice.”

Dann Marketos, CAS assistant professor of mathematics, agreed. He recalled, “I was a graduate student when I first began teaching. Larry was a wonderful resource and mentor as I found my place in the classroom.”

Not surprisingly, Gilligan is so motivated to “give back” because he feels great appreciation for those who have given to him. He stated, “I became a teacher because of a teacher. I became a mentor and have always sought to serve because of people who have helped me.”

He added, “When I was in high school in New York City, there were 1,600 kids in my graduating class, and I was a kid in trouble. But then, one of my math teachers saw promise in me. That led to me becoming a math teacher in a New York community college when I was 21 years old. I was the youngest person in one of the classes I was teaching. In many ways, I was too young, but great teachers there took an interest in me and turned this really green kid into a good teacher.”

And that’s why Gilligan seeks out ways to serve through a variety of opportunities, including

  • Organizing an annual faculty-student softball game at CAS that leaves him “unable to walk for days afterwards.”
  • Inviting new students up on stage with him during freshman orientation in order to prove both the usefulness and “fun” of math. For instance, to demonstrate the relevance of statistics, he’s gathered 23 new students on stage to prove that two of them will likely have the same birthday (not necessarily the same year). If he can get 30 students up on stage, that probability becomes a “shoe in,” according to Gilligan.
  • Doing the “vest dance” on demand: Wearing a traditional three-piece suit, he manages to take off the vest without ever removing his arms from the jacket sleeves. It illustrates a special kind of geometry concerned with the ways in which surfaces can be twisted, bent, pulled, stretched or otherwise deformed from one shape into another.  
  • Founding a CAS mathematics scholarship in his mother’s honor.
  • Serving as the “jack of all trades” when he was CAS’ associate dean. “When the plumbing clogged, they called me.”
  • Serving on the Faculty Senate’s Budget and Priorities Committee where he “learned so much about the university” and “learned that fellow faculty members were doing so much more than I was.”

About the only service Gilligan feels he hasn’t been able to devote as much time as he would like to would be that of greater involvement in the CAS student tribunal.

“We’re here for the students,” he said, “And I’d enjoy even more opportunities to work with them. After all, I already have the best job in the world. More opportunities to work with students would only make it better.”