Oslerfest: Prominent mathematicians to pay tribute to legendary Rowan prof

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Some of the nation's most prominent mathematicians--and a few rising stars in the field--are coming to Rowan University this weekend with a singular purpose: To honor the life and achievements of Rowan mathematics professor Tom Osler.

Some of the nation's most prominent mathematicians--and a few rising stars in the field--are coming to Rowan University this weekend with a singular purpose: To honor the life and achievements of Rowan mathematics professor Tom Osler.

Oslerfest, which runs Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17, will celebrate Osler's 70th birthday and will pay tribute to his prolific, 38-year career at Rowan and his 49-year teaching career.

Approximately 70 mathematicians, including about 15 of Osler's current and former students, will be on hand for the two-day event on the Main Campus. The conference, which begins Friday at 3:30 p.m. and concludes Saturday afternoon, will include presentations by three of the nation's most prominent mathematicians: Bruce Berndt of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; George Andrews from Penn State; and Richard Askey of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Andrews and Askey are both members of the National Academy of Sciences, an honorific society of distinguished scholars. Additionally, Andrews, who specializes in number theory, is president of the American Mathematical Society, the premier society of mathematical research.

A world-class mathematician, according to Osler, Askey is sometimes known as the "grand old man of special functions," while Berndt is the world's expert in the work of Srinivasa Ramanujan, the genius Indian mathematician.

In fact, Berndt and Andrews both will offer presentations on the conference focusing on Ramanujan.  Berndt's presentation, which will be held Friday at 3:30 p.m. on Betty Long Rowan Lecture Hall, Rowan Hall, is part of the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series presented by Parviz Ansari, dean of Rowan's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Other presenters at Oslerfest include Victor Moll from Tulane University, an expert in mathematical integration; Rowan mechanical engineering professor TR Chandrupatla, who will discuss planar bi-arc curves; Rowan alumnus Walt Jacob of Fidelity National Information Systems, who co-published with Osler on the work of Euler; and current Rowan students Jason Scaramazza and Jonathan Weisbrod.

A presentation by Osler on Saturday will close the conference.

"The three main speakers are world-famous for their work," says Osler, who has published more than 125 articles during his Rowan career. In the past decade, he, remarkably, has co-written 38 articles with students.

"You can't do any better than this," Osler says of the prominent scholars attending Oslerfest. "This is usually done for people who have had really huge accomplishments. I really don't know that I deserve something at this level."

While festivals such as Oslerfest are not uncommon in academia to celebrate the accomplishments of prominent scholars, Rowan faculty and staff all agree that Osler is in a class by himself when it comes to his teaching and involvement with his students.

In fact, in planning the festival, involvement by Rowan students was a crucial element, says math department chairman Hieu Nguyen, one of the organizers of Oslerfest, along with faculty members Abdul Hassen, Chris Simons, Jay Schiffman and Marcus Wright.

"The student involvement was very critical," says Nguyen. "Tom has always been a great mentor for students. If we didn't have any students involved, it wouldn't be Oslerfest."

"The students are my professional life," says Osler. "One of the great joys of being a teacher is to have a sense that you've meant something to somebody.

"There were about five people in my life that showed me things and gave direction to my life," he continues. "To me, they were giants. It's a very satisfying notion to think I could be that in someone else's life."

An accomplished runner who is a member of the Road Runner's Club of America Hall of Fame, Osler also has received a number of awards, including: the Distinguished Teacher of Mathematics Award from the Mathematical Association of America, New Jersey Section (2009); the Editorial Excellence Award from the journal Mathematics and Computer Education (2009); and the Gary Hunter Mentoring Award from the American Federation of Teachers (2008).

Before coming to Rowan, Osler taught at Drexel, New York, and St. Joseph's universities and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

For more on Oslerfest, visit http://www.rowan.edu/colleges/las/departments/math/facultystaff/hassen/Osler_Fest.htm.

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