Department of Mathematical Sciences

History of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University

Edward L. Stanley


Professor Edward Stanley was born in Scott County, Tennessee in 1907. He was able to start school at the age of 4 because the older children in his family had taught him the alphabet and how to count to 100. After finishing school, he taught in a one room school house (grades 1-8) in the Possum Rock community (TN). At that time the school "year" was only 4 months September-December. There were no desks, just benches. Ed persuaded the adjacent community of White Pine to build a one-room school and he taught there during January through May. (He also helped build that school.) During the summer he went to East Tennessee State College. He continued teaching school for 16 more years and attending summer school at the College. After saving enough money to attend during the regular semesters (helped along by a job at the library that paid 15 cents/hour) he graduated in two years (1931). Next he earned a Master's degree at the University of Tennessee. Upon completion of this degree, he remained to teach mathematics for one year substituting for a professor on leave of absence and later took a one-year job working as a mathematician at the TVA. He was unable to serve in the military because of poor eyesight. His next job was at Middle Georgia College in Cochran Georgia (one semester).

In the fall of 1943 he came to Clemson College where he taught until his retirement in 1972. For a time, the nickname given to him by the cadets was "Tennesee Mountain Boy" and later he became known as "Steamroller." He taught nearly every mathematics course that Clemson College offered, including remedial mathematics, college algebra, trigonometry, analytic geometry, calculus, differential equations, and advanced algebra. This last course was a combination of the theory of equations, progressions, permutations, surds and partial fractions. He taught first on the fourth floor of the "main building" (Tillman Hall) and ended up teaching in Martin Hall. When Clemson tried an experiment with large classes (125 students in Brackett auditorium) he was chosen because his strong voice was easy to hear without electronic aid. (When he asked the class if they could hear in the back row, a student replied "Professor Stanley, they can hear you in the barracks.") After trying this large class for two or three semesters, it was abandoned because the students did not like that format.

After retirement Mr. Stanley married Virginia Abbot Jackson who had been the secretary of the Dean of the College of Sciences and before that the secretary of the Mathematics Department (it was not the first marriage for either of them). They presently (2002) reside at Clemson Downs. They both love to travel but she has traveled more than he has partly because he tutored students for seven years after he retired. He loves a joke even on himself and is the professor that most Clemson alumni now returning to campus ask about. As a sample of his sense of humor is the story that once a dog wandered into his class and he ran the dog out saying loudly that the dog ought to go into the adjoining English class. At the end of the period when the English professor asked why dogs need English more than math, Ed replied "Dogs can tell a big bone from a small bone but they need to know the appropriate language when asked to fetch or come home, etc."

After retirement Mr. Stanley was made an honorary member of the class of 1952. In the Vickery Learning Center there is a picture and plaque expressing appreciation for Professor Stanley's work as a tutor for the students at night before and after retirement. (Professor C.M. Stuart also has a picture and plaque for this activity.)

Ed and Virgina Stanley sponsor a continuing scholarship for an undergraduate mathematical sciences student at Clemson University and another at East Tennessee University.

Professor Stanley has shown what can be done with hard work and a keen mind. He was born to parents who had no funds to provide him with a higher education and he was attempting to satisfy his dream of teaching mathematics in the middle of the depression. He taught under a variety of environments and was successful wherever he taught.

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