The Mathematical Association of America (MAA 1 ) is the world’s largest organization devoted to the interests of collegiate mathematics, with a major emphasis on the teaching of mathematics at the collegiate level. The MAA 2 is different from many professional mathematical organizations in one vital respect – more activity takes place within its sections than at its national meetings.
This work chronicles the history of one of those sections during its first 75 years. Chapter 1 provides a background to the establishment of the section by outlining the formation of the two major mathematical organizations in the country and their sections – the MAA 3 and the AMS (American Mathematical Society) 4 . Chapter 2 discusses the founding of the Philadelphia Section in November 1926. The Section initially included all of central Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. The next four chapters describe the development of the section into periods defined by external events. The first, 1926-1933, ends with the founding of the Allegheny Section. The second, 1933-1941, includes the role played by émigrés who settled in the area after fleeing their homeland to avoid persecution. The period 1941-1956 begins with wartime activities and ends with the founding of the New Jersey Section. It is followed by a period of immense expansion, 1956-1978. The present name of the section, EPADEL, adopted in late 1978, serves as a divider for the last period, 1978-2000, the focus of Chapter 5. In addition, by the mid 1970s it became necessary to add a second annual meeting to the program; the final chapter describes the resulting spring meetings held annually since then.
This book has been written so all chapters can be read independently. Thus someone who is not interested in the distant past, but wants to recall activities and leaders from, say, the sixties, can jump to the corresponding chapter with impunity. On the other hand, reading the book from front to back provides a greater appreciation for the incremental changes that have taken place over the \(75\)-year duration.
The emphasis of this book, however, is not strictly on the mathematical developments that took place. Rather, the strength of the MAA 5 – and its sections – lies with the vast army of volunteers who march to the front line with plans of actions. Consequently this account emphasizes the people who made the section what it is. In this sense, the book attempts to bring the sectional leaders to life by interspersing biographical sketches into the narrative. Some of theses leaders have been so active – and decorated on a national scale – that larger profiles are provided at the end of chapters. Altogether 16 personalities have been profiled; 88 others have biographical sketches. Appendix 1 provides an alphabetical list of all 104 of them.
Sometimes, finding details about these personalities has presented a daunting task, because few departments have kept very good records. However, I have been helped enormously by several archivists, to whom EPADEL and I owe a great debt of gratitude: Claire L. Andrews and John A. Erdmann (Kutztown), Raymond Butti (Brown), James Duffin and Ryan M. Janda (Penn), Daniel R. Gilbert (Moravian), Philip A. Metzger (Lehigh), Patricia O’Donnell (Swarthmore), Diana F. Peterson (Haverford), Ann W. Upton (F&M), and Carolyn Weigel (Ursinus).
Many present EPADEL members have also aided me in locating information. I will not attempt to list all of them here, partly for fear of omitting someone who spent a lot of time searching for, say, the exact year of retirement of a colleague. However, I hereby acknowledge the invaluable help I received from a few people who are not sketched in this work: Stephen F. Andrilli (LaSalle), James P. Crawford (Lafayette), Penelope H. Dunham (Muhlenberg), Gary L. Ebert (Delaware), Frederick W. Hartmann (Villanova), Everett Pitcher (Lehigh), Chris Rorres (Drexel), George M. Rosenstein, Jr. (F& M), Jeff Tecosky-Feldman (Haverford), and Paul R. Wolfson (West Chester).
I am particularly indebted to Temple University for a Research and Study Leave during the spring \(1999\) semester. This sabbatical allowed me to jumpstart a history that had been languishing the previous two years.
In addition, I gratefully thank William Dunham (Muhlenberg), for his detailed proofreading of an earlier version of the entire manuscript, and Raymond F. Coughlin (Temple), for his encouragement to publish it.
David E. Zitarelli
September 1, 2001
The MAA 6 has played a large role in my professional life since my undergraduate days at Pennsylvania Military College (shortened to PMC, but now called Widener University). Three serendipitous events formed the basis for my future involvement in the Association during my three years there.
The first occurred while I was in the school’s library doing research for a term paper in one of two required composition courses. Taking a break from Occam’s Razor, I perused the stacks in the school’s small library, which then consisted of only two rooms. Although a general science major, I maintained a strong interest in mathematics, so my eyes were drawn to the only magazine on mathematics in the stacks, the American Mathematical Monthly. I soon learned to call it a “journal” instead of a “magazine”. But I found the articles inscrutable. A year later, having scanned every issue of the journal upon its arrival, I asked Professor Claude Helms, then head of the department, “What’s topology?” “Some newfangled theory,” he replied offhandedly.
But Helms encouraged me to write Harry Gehman, whose name was listed on the cover of the Monthly. That led to the second event that would define my career, because the longtime MAA 7 secretary-treasurer responded with a detailed, personal letter explaining the path I should follow to study topology. He also invited me to apply for membership in the MAA 8 . So began my first, tentative steps toward becoming a mathematician, though an algebraist and not a topologist. Upon transferring to Temple University, I elected a course with Dr. Marie Wurster, who taught me the critical ability to write proofs.
The third decisive event took place when the Temple chair, Dr. Walter Lawton, encouraged me to attend a sectional meeting of the MAA 9 . So, on a nasty, wind-swept November morning, I trudged to Haverford College to spend an entire Saturday immersed in words and concepts that belonged on a different planet. Yet the spirit of the speakers, especially Pincus Schub of Penn – a little, old man with big, young ideas – was infectious.
These three events - discovering the Monthly, joining the MAA 10 and attending its sectional meetings - conspired to draw me ineluctably to the present work. They also highlighted the central role that individuals play in our professional development. It is my grandest hope that this book enables other sectional members to understand and to appreciate our rich heritage. I also hope that other mathematicians will learn about the important role this local microcosm has played in the more global American mathematical community.