Professor Mary Ann Schultz McLoughlin ’63 has been with The College of Saint Rose for more than half of its existence. Entering as a student in 1959 and joining the mathematics faculty in 1965, Dr. McLoughlin serves as a bridge between what the founding Sisters envisioned and the institution Saint Rose has become. Known for high standards, she is also credited with encouraging students to think on their feet — and for giving flowers grown in her garden to those she wishes to thank, support, or cheer up.
After graduating from Saint Rose, she earned a Master of Arts in Mathematics at Washington University in St. Louis. Next, she earned both a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in Mathematics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute while teaching at Saint Rose.
Today, McLoughlin’s stature as the longest-serving faculty member (55 years) is recognized at the end of many campus forums, when the speaker says, “Yes, Mary Ann” and offers her the first question.
Here, she discusses her experience:
In 1959 I entered the College of Saint Rose. I sought a classical education. As a female with two brothers, I had played softball, explored a stream through the woods, visited the brook trawling for pollywogs and rocks, followed the caterpillars as they morphed into butterflies, examined the trillium and the forget-me-nots, and climbed and explored. I also read the books of adventures throughout the world and universe. This led to my wanting to be an archeologist, anthropologist, or paleontologist — long before Indiana Jones.
But my 100s in mathematics stood out. The first day in my Saint Rose mathematics course was heavenly because we had a pre-test to solve several simultaneous equations, which I did, checked out, and left early.
My major professor was Sister Noel Marie Cronin, CSJ, who expected only the best. Work was to be done in record time, with complete understanding as shown by explanations. I gloried in it, though needed intermediate steps provided and more direction. I had Professor Doris I. Grumbach, published author, for literature. She took me aside after a class to invite me to major in English. Sister Noel Marie was incensed.
Father Robert Willi taught Thomistic psychology; a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he energized and dazzled us. Professor Edith Garofalo immersed us in history by our seeing “the big picture.”
Sister Tess Wysolmerski took us into the world of chemistry, beginning each class with an oral quiz: “Miss Mary Ann Schultz, tell me about Bohr’s theory.” The first exam I had that first semester was chemistry, which I did not finish. When I told her, she replied, “You will finish next time,” and I did. The standards were high, and we strove to meet them.
I was in the College honors program with advanced mathematics but was also a student in a Saint Rose/Siena philosophy seminar. Sister Emily Daly, Latin and Greek scholar, was the Saint Rose faculty member.
Two weeks after I graduated, supported by the National Science Foundation, I began an M.A. at Washington University in St. Louis. People were entranced by someone from New York – which, of course, meant “New York City.” After graduation, Sister Noel Marie invited me to apply for the mathematics department at Saint Rose. So I put aside my plans to enter the Peace Corps.
I returned to my alma mater, and after marriage to Richard E. McLoughlin and having two children, became a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for an M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics. I respected Rensselaer, headed by George M. Low, who was intimately involved in the space program. Again, funded by the NSF, I was a participant in the Institute on the History of Mathematics and Its Use in Teaching while studying at RPI.
As for the attraction to special numbers, Director of Public Safety Steve Stella saves the number 314, pi, for my parking permit number. The ratio of terms of the Fibonacci sequence, the Divine Proportion, is of particular interest, as embodied in art, an analysis of beauty, and literature.
Overall, it is the patterns and the magic of mathematics. Mathematicians come up with abstractions and generalizations, sometimes from the real world and sometimes not, but eventually turn out to be applicable: for example, hyperbolic geometry — which is curved space and Einstein’s theory of relativity.
I take a liberal arts approach to teaching courses in mathematics, with students doing research and applications of their work. We have been to plays: “Proof” at Capital Rep, “And Then There were None” at Sage, and films such as “Agora” (about Hypatia) and, more recently, “Hidden Figures.” For the logic course I teach, each student chooses a mystery novel to read, analyze, and present as a class project.
Giving gifts is a family custom. Guests were provided with food (always with chocolate) and drink, while flowers were given as they departed. After all, the College is named after the first American saint, St. Rose of Lima.
I stay at The College of Saint Rose because there is support for the eternal verities, “unum, pulchrum, bonum, and summum” — the highest good — as enunciated by Aristotle but written in Latin. Sister Rose Regina Smith came to me one day to tell me she had concluded that mathematics is the basis of everything. In 1999 at her inauguration, RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson made that one of her three tenets.