Department History

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1898 - 1930: From YMCA Reading Room to Youngstown Institute of Technology

Youngstown State traces its beginnings to a reading room and classes at the local YMCA. The earliest known class was Mechanical Drawing in 1888. In 1898, the Youngstown Vindicator listed the courses available at the YMCA with a brief description of each. Included in this course description were the following mathematics classes (Skardon 37):

Arithmetic: For men who need it in their business. Not a “fancy” subject, but a hard practical, common sense study on an everyday subject, needed by every man. “Just what I need.” Monday and Wednesday, 7:30pm. Professor George H. Lamb (Principal of the Wood Street School).

Algebra: Intended largely for machinists, draughtsmen, and accountants who use it in their business. Monday and Wednesday, 9:00pm. Professor George H. Lamb.

The Vindicator noted that courses for Fall 1890 would commence on 23 September 1890 and include Arithmetic and Algebra. The academic year was structured into a Fall and Spring term with commencement in April. On 16 June 1916, the Youngstown Association School was incorporated. This opened the school to both sexes but kept it under the auspices of the YMCA. The list of courses for 1916 categorized the educational offerings under five broad headings: Engineering, Law, Business, High School, and General. The mathematics courses were offered under the Engineering domain (where they would remain until 1940) and included Analytical Geometry and Calculus. In the high school domain, Algebra and Trigonometry were listed. In a course list published in the Youngstown Vindicator in 1918, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry were offered. The school would use the name Youngstown Association School until 1921 when it became known as the Youngstown Institute of Technology.

Nathan Harter, a Professor of Mathematics from Thiel College, was listed among the faculty in 1926. In the earliest days, the school drew its faculty from business and professional men who taught in their areas of expertise, teachers in the public schools, and professors from neighboring colleges, including Thiel College, Geneva College, and Hiram College, who taught at the Institute on a part-time basis.

1930 - 1965: The Growing Department

The Institute conferred its first BA degree in 1930 with the establishment of the College of Liberal Arts, in conjunction with Hiram, Thiel, and Geneva Colleges. That same year, Castle W. Foard was hired to head the Mathematics and Physics program. In 1932, ten courses in mathematics were listed in the bulletin, so that the number of mathematics courses were second only to the number of English courses. The earliest mathematics courses included Differential Equations, Analytical Mechanics, and the History of Mathematics. 

The college offered a four­ year pre-engineering course of study for the AB degree with a major in mathematics and physics. The program required 29 semester hours of mathematics (College Algebra, 4 hours; Trigonometry, 3 hours; Analytic Geometry, 3 hours; Calculus, 10 hours; Differential Equations, 3 hours; Vector Analysis or Theory of Light, 3 hours; and History of Mathematics or Modern Physical Theory, 3 hours). Classes were held in the John C. Wick mansion on the corner of Lincoln and Wick avenues. The first mathematics degree program appeared in 1932-1933 with a four­ year course for AB in Mathematics. Courses included College Algebra, Plane and Spherical Trigonometry, Analytic Geometry and Calculus, two semesters of Calculus, Mathematics of Finance, and Differential and Integral Calculus. In 1931, the Trustees formally changed the name of the school to the Youngstown Institute of Technology, only to change it later that year to Youngstown College.

In 1934, the math major added a requirement of three semester courses offered to Juniors and Seniors. The advanced courses were selected each year based on variety and the needs of the class. Advanced Geometry and Advanced Differential Equations were added to the catalog. In 1936, the first statistical methods course was offered to those students interested in biology and, in 1937, the bulletin first mentions the ability to obtain a certificate to teach Mathematics and Physical Science in high school. 

From 1930 to 1940, the faculty grew from one full and one part-time member to twelve full-time and part-­time instructors. In 1944, there was the first mention of a placement exam for students and Theory of Statistics was listed among the courses. At that time, Dr. Foard went on leave of absence to enter governmental service. In 1946, the Rayen School of Engineering was established and the four full-service instructors of mathematics in 1947 were housed in the Department of Engineering. Partial Differential Equations appeared in 1948 and Bernard Yozwiak joined the faculty. In 1949, the first distinction between a BS and BA in math appeared. Advanced Calculus became Calculus III and a Vector Analysis course was offered. The next year had the first appearance of a BS in Education degree and the Department of Mathematics emerged as its own entity with Frank Ellis as the Acting Head. 

In 1952, the AB degree required 41 semester hours. The growing Department also found a new home in 1953 when Clingan-Waddell Hall opened on Rayen Avenue just east of Wick Avenue. The building was acquired by the College in 1953 and was formerly the YMCA Youth Center. In 1955, the College changed its name to Youngstown University and, by 1960, the Department had nine full time faculty members and fourteen part-time instructors. An article in the 28 September 1956 Jambar introduces one of the new faculty members. Numerical Analysis and Modern Algebra appeared in the catalog in 1957 while Operations Research first appeared in the 1959-1960 bulletin. Intermediate Analysis first appeared in 1962. The Department continued to expand its offerings to include upper-­level geometry and the theory of probability (1965). 

1965 - 2000: Transition to the Modern Department

The year 1965-1966 was one of tremendous growth in the Department. The course offerings expanded to include Abstract Algebra I and II, Matrix Theory, Euclidean Geometry, Advanced Calculus, and Topology. In 1967, the Bulletin listed the first Survey of Mathematics course, as well as the first honors calculus sequence. During this time, the first complex analysis course also appeared and the University became part of the state system in Ohio. In 1968, the Department moved from Clingan-Waddell Hall to the newly constructed Engineering Science Building, which would be its home until Cushwa Hall opened in 1976. In 1968, the Department began to offer a graduate degree in mathematics. A 25 February 1975 article in the Jambar describes a committee to handle student criticism of the Department!

In 1970, the computer science offerings first became listed as part of the Department. Initially offering a minor in computer science, the computer science major first appeared in Fall 1975. A 1983 article in the Graduate School’s Frontiers magazines described computer science at YSU. The Computer Science Department formally split from the Department of Mathematics in 1993. In 1979, the first mention of a statistics concentration appeared in the undergraduate bulletin and, in 1996, statistics courses were first listed separately from mathematics courses and the Department became known as the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. A description of statistics program appeared in a 1999 edition of the Graduate School’s magazine Frontiers.

The Department has run several seminars over the course of its history, including seminars in analysis and topology. Some photos from seminars: 8 May 1979 Math Seminar, Dr. Piotrowski in the Analysis Seminar (1996), and another from the Analysis Seminar in 1996.

2000 - Present

With the conversion to semesters in Fall 2000, the Department reorganized its undergraduate degrees and began to offer tracks within the degrees. These included the traditional mathematics, applied mathematics, statistics, and quantitative business tracks. 

Because of a generous gift from J. Douglas and Barbara Faires, on December 13, 2006, the YSU Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURMath) at Youngstown State. The goal of CURMath is to enhance undergraduate mathematics education by promoting student participation in regional and national conferences and competitions. CURMath has sponsored some of the Department’s most engaging activities for students, including participation in COMAP (COMAP Article and 2003 Vindicator COMAP Article) and national conferences (Math Horizons: Lucarelli Article). It also helps sponsor some of the Department’s social events, including its annual tailgate. Here is a photo of Bob Shuttleworth, Bernard Yozwiak, and Nate Ritchey at the 2001 Math Tailgate. In 2007, the Department moved from the College of Arts and Sciences to the newly founded College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). 

In 2009, the Board of Trustees recognized the Department’s historical strength in topology with the creation of the Institute for Applied Topology and Topological Structures to promote topologically related research and its applications. An article in YSUpdate describes Dr. Rodabaugh’s research in topology.

Also during this time, Dr. George Yates received a grant from the National Science Foundation to sponsor Mathematics and Biology Undergraduate Research (MBUR), which allowed undergraduate students to participate in interdisciplinary research in mathematics and biology.

In 2011, the Department added an actuarial science track to the bachelor’s and master’s degrees and moved from Cushwa Hall to its present home in the Lincoln Building.

Distinguished Faculty

The following list of members of the YSU Department of Mathematics was obtained through the undergraduate bulletin and from a Department history compiled in 1977. Because of printing deadlines, the years of service may not be completely accurate.

Several mathematics faculty have been honored with the Watson Distinguished Professor Award. These include:

Watson Award Recipients
Year Awardee
1960-1961 Bernard Yozwiak
1961-1962 Richard Burden
1963-1964 Thaddeus Michael Dillon
1970-1971 Raymond Hurd
1986-1987 Richard Burden
1995-1996 John Buoni
2001-2002 Nathan Ritchey
2020-2021 Thomas Wakefield

Two faculty members have received the YSU Heritage Award, which recognizes former faculty and staff who have made lasting contributions to the University.

Heritage Award Recipients
Year Awardee
1997 Bernard Yozwiak
2011 J. Douglas Faires

In addition, YSU math faculty members have held numerous leadership positions in national math organizations and have been honored by these organizations. A 26 April 1968 article from the Jambar describes the Department’s participation in the Ohio Section Meeting of the MAA. Youngstown State hosted the Spring Meeting of the Ohio Section in 1976, 1997, and 2011 and the Fall meeting in 1982. 

Jacek Fabrykowski chaired the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad for a three­ year term from 2010­2013.

Doug Faires was a member of the council of Pi Mu Epsilon and served a term as its President. He received the Outstanding College-University Teacher of Mathematics Award by the Ohio Section of the Mathematical Association of America and, in 2005, was awarded the MacDuffee Award by Pi Mu Epsilon for his contributions to the organization. He served as co-director of examinations for the American Mathematics Competition and served as a judge for the COMAP International Contest in Modeling. He authored or co-authored more than 20 books, including nine editions of the classic Numerical Analysis with Richard Burden.

Zbigniew Piotrowski, who published over 70 articles in topology and abstract analysis, also wrote in the Vindicator. David Pollack wrote into the Parade Magazine.

Nathan Ritchey served as the first Director of the University Scholars and Honors Program from 1993-2000. He also served as the Interim Associate Provost from 2006-2007. Here is an article from 1997 April 25 Jambar about Dr. Ritchey

Steven Rodabaugh has served as Associate Dean of the College of STEM since its founding in 2007. Here is a photo of Drs. Rodabaugh and Mimna

Angela Spalsbury also has served on the council of Pi Mu Epsilon and began her term as President of the national organization in August 2015. She has also been instrumental in the creation and organization of YSU’s MathFest, a day of workshops and experiences in mathematics for high school students. Here is a Tribune Chronicle article on MathFest.

In 1971, Bernard Yozwiak was appointed to Dean of the College of Arts and Science, a position he held until his retirement in 1992. He was the inaugural recipient of the Watson Distinguished Professor Award at Youngstown State.

The Department has been staffed by some wonderful people, including full-time secretaries or administrative assistants Nira Robinette, Karen DiMatteo, Sandi Petiya, Megan Shargo and Maureen Adams. Nancy O’Hara and Wendy Welsh have also assisted in the main office. Dr. Buoni is pictured with Nira and Karen in this 1994 photo.

Student Organizations, Activities, and Awards

In 1972, the Department offered the Charles G. Watson Award to two senior mathematics majors. This $100 award was named in honor of a member of the YSU Board of Trustees and would be offered for two years. The Department currently offers four undergraduate awards: the BJ Yozwiak Mathematics Award, Outstanding Student in Statistics, Outstanding Student in Mathematics Education, and the Outstanding Junior­Senior in Mathematics Award. It also offers an Outstanding Graduate Student in Mathematics Award. 

The Mathematics Society was listed as a club in the 1939 bulletin and remained active until 1947. In 1965, the student activities list again showed an active YSU Math Club. This Club would remain active and requested affiliation with Pi Mu Epsilon in 1981. The Ohio Xi Chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon(link is external) inducted its initial members in 1982. Students interested in actuarial science have participated in the YSU Actuarial Science Club(link is external).

Since 1997, the Department has hosted a regional conference in mathematics(link is external) for undergraduates from area colleges. The conference was described in 21 February 2002 Jambar article about the PME Conference.

In addition to hosting the annual high school MathFest, the Department also hosts a Sonia Kovalevsky Day for high school women each spring. 

Each year, students compete in the annual calculus competition and integration bee and participate in the COMAP Math Modeling Competition. 

The Math Achievement Center has been an integral part of the Department’s commitment to student success. Robert Ciotola, the longtime director of the MAC, was profiled in YSUpdate upon his retirement.


Information about the early history of Youngstown State taken from “Steel Valley University: The Origin of Youngstown State” by Alvin K. Skardon, C.J. Krehbiel Co, 1983. Information was also obtained from the Department History compiled in 1977* by by L. Knauf, G. Mavrigian, S. Rodfong and the scrapbook compiled by Karen DiMatteo. 

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