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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

'Eternally Grateful'

University of Dayton faculty aren't always aware of their lasting impact on students' lives. But Harry Mushenheim, mathematics professor emeritus, learned of his influence on former student Dr. Pieter Wiersema '74 when the latter donated $10,000 to the department of mathematics in Mushenheim's honor.

Wiersema is president of Indianapolis-based Cytology Pathology Services. In an email to Mushenheim about the gift, he credited his former professor for enabling him to progress intellectually, despite a momentary lapse in concentration and perseverance.

“I will be eternally grateful to you for your efforts toward my mathematical education,” Wiersema wrote.

Mushenheim, who retired in 2005 as associate professor after 40 years at the University, said he probably told Wiersema the same thing he said to most students: “Get off your rear end and do your homework.”

“Maybe, for a few of them, that impressed them and they did — they started doing their homework and they turned their academic life around,” he said.

Wiersema received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Dayton. He also holds a master’s in computer science from Purdue University and a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. He joined the Cytology Pathology Services staff in 1994.

Mushenheim, the mathematics department chair from 1972-1976, said he was pleased by the thought behind Wiersema’s gift.

The one-time donation will be used to fund mathematics department student activities, said Wiebke Diestelkamp, professor and current department chair. Those activities could include attending conferences and workshops, or participating in annual, national events such as the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition or the Mathematical Contest in Modeling.

Despite his retirement, Mushenheim remains an active member of the University community. He volunteers at the Marian Library, where he helps create the annual Nativity scene displays. He attends mathematics department events such as the biennial Alumni Career Seminar and Undergraduate Mathematics Day. He also frequents the RecPlex to swim laps in the pool.

Diestelkamp recalled Mushenheim as a demanding teacher who was also willing to help students who put in the effort, and who gave students second and even third chances if they didn’t take a test seriously the first time.

“We thank Dr. Wiersema, and we thank Harry, for helping him realize his mathematical potential,” she said.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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