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Randolph-Macon professor receives major recognition

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 12:11 pm

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A Randolph-Macon College professor is among 12 educators in the state to receive a prestigious award, which recognizes her contributions as a faculty member.

Dr. Eve Torrence, professor of mathematics at R-MC, recently received the 2013 SCHEV/Dominion Resources Outstanding Faculty Award, the Commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty at Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. The OFA program, currently in its 27th year, is administered by the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia, or SCHEV.

Dr. Eve Torrence holds one of her mathematical sculptures. (Photo courtesy of R-MC)

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the 12 OFA recipients were honored at an awards ceremony at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. There, they were recognized by Gov. Bob McDonnell, and received $5,000 in cash and a commemorative engraved award.

When she found out she had received the award, Torrence’s reaction was one of shock.

“It is a very hard award to get. And there are a lot of deserving people who have applied for the award,” she said.

Torrence has had an accomplished career at Randolph-Macon College since 1994, remaining heavily involved in the college and the greater community. On a national level, she has served on the national council of Pi Mu Epsilon, the math honors society, since 2002 and is currently president of the national organization. She has also served as the chair of the MD-DC-VA section of the Mathematical Association of America and as chair of the R-MC committee on the faculty.

Students on campus will also know Torrence for her engaging courses and the numerous mathematical sculptures of hers that can be found throughout campus, including the school library and several academic buildings. These complex and visually stimulating structures belong to the fairly new and rapidly growing field of mathematical art.

Torrence recognizes that she is at the leading edge of a movement.

“I am not the first person to do this, but I feel that I am at the beginning of it somewhat,” she explained.

Mathematical art involves the use of objects, diagrams and pictures to explain mathematical concepts. With advances in computer technology, Torrence explained, “we can visualize mathematical concepts in ways that we never could before. That makes mathematics more accessible.”

Torrence, in general, is interested in making mathematics more accessible to a general audience.

“I’m interested in things that have a broader impact,” Torrence said. “Mathematical research can be very esoteric; doing very, very hard stuff that only a few people in the world can understand.”

“And so, I’m interested in things which are more general audience; those can come from a lot of different places like these geometrical structures and origami,” she added.

Torrence was a co-recipient of the Trevor Evans award in 2007 for writings published in the journal Math Horizons, which is friendly to math scholars and casual readers alike.

Torrence has also taught a number of multi-disciplinary courses, which have combined mathematics with subjects such as theater and art. She credits the faculty at R-MC with encouraging a creative and inspiring academic environment in which to work.

“We have a really good faculty: a really quality and creative faculty here,” Torrence said. “Plus, there is the opportunity to do so many creative things. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who have great ideas because you are encouraged to develop creative courses, creative ways to teach.”

Torrence also appreciated the flexibility allotted to R-MC faculty.

“You’re not told how to teach. You have a lot of freedom to do interesting things,” she said.

Concerning her nomination of the Outstanding Faculty Award, Torrence said that she could have imagined just about any of the other R-MC faculty members receiving the honor.

“I feel very lucky. I think it is an award that almost anyone on this faculty deserves and could win. R-MC has a lot of very talented people on the faculty,” she said.

Torrence also mentioned that she felt the support of the school since having received the award.

“Everyone has been so nice about it. The president and the provost sent me flowers,” Torrence recounted. “People have been so nice about the whole thing, saying congratulations.”

“I feel like I won it, but [it’s thanks] somewhat to the support I got from my colleagues to get where I am and do the things I do,” Torrence added.