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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 6.7 Profile: Willard Ellis Baxter

Willard E. Baxter was born on December 14, 1929, in Chester, PA. He obtained his bachelors degree from Ursinus College in 1951 and an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin the following year. He then enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, leading to a Ph.D. in 1956 for a dissertation on ring theory written under the algebraist I. N. Herstein.
Upon graduation Baxter taught at Ohio University for two years before accepting a position as assistant professor at the University of Delaware in 1958. He remained at Delaware until his retirement in 1994. In 1970 he succeeded Russell Remage as chair of the department.
Baxter was elected chair of the Philadelphia Section in 1968 for the first of two consecutive terms. He remained as chair of his department even longer, five years. During that time Baxter served as the section’s governor from 1971 to 1974. He has been one of the most active members of the section, being elected to the Executive Committee in 1967, being a panel member in 1970, accepting an invitation to speak in 1971, serving as secretary-treasurer from 1976 to 1982, and reminiscing about the history of the section at the luncheon held during the annual fall meeting at Delaware in 1990. (The text of Baxter’s address is reproduced in Appendix 2.)
In 1984 the national MAA instituted an award “for service to the MAA at the national level or for service to a Section of the Association”. Honorees are recognized annually at the January meeting of the Association. Will Baxter was the first recipient from our section, being awarded the Certificate of Meritorious Service in 1986. We quote the MAA citation in its entirety:
The Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Section of the Mathematical Association of America is pleased to nominate Professor Willard E. Baxter as the section’s first recipient of the MAA certificate of meritorious service. The section gratefully recognizes the many contributions Will has made not only to the MAA but to the wider mathematical community of researchers, teachers and students, both in high school and universities.
A student of I. N. Herstein, Will Baxter received his Ph.D. from the university of Pennsylvania in 1956. Known as a fine research algebraist, he has been on the mathematics faculty at the University of Delaware for 28 years, and served as department chairman 1970-75.
For over thirty years, Will has been an active participant in MAA activities. He has served the EPADEL section in every possible capacity: as a member of the Section Executive Committee 1967-69, as Section Chairman 1969-71, as Section Governor 1971-74, and as Section Secretary-Treasurer 1976-82. An enthusiastic and popular lecturer, he has given invited addresses at two section meetings. Mindful that Delaware is not a suburb of Philadelphia, he was instrumental in having the section name (formerly “Philadelphia Section”) changed to its present geographically descriptive form. Throughout his years as officer of the section, Will was the person to turn to when a difficult task had to be done, and was a primary source of guidance for section activities and policy matters.
Will’s enthusiasm for and encouragement of young mathematical talent is evidenced by his long and continuing involvement as regional coordinator of the annual American High School Mathematics Examination and as director of the Delaware Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. He has also had a fruitful association with in-service training of teachers of mathematics, and is currently involved in materials development for high schools. His concern for the teaching of service calculus courses, coupled with his interest in mathematical modeling produced a pioneering book, co-authored with Clifford W. Sloyer which combined probability with calculus and was intended for students in the biological and managerial sciences.
All of these activities have contributed to the life and health of the mathematical community. For his many years of dedication and service, we are pleased to honor Will Baxter with this award.