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The Career of Ed Enochs Spotlighted at International Mathematics Conference

By Sarah Schuetze

In late July the University of Kentucky hosted the International Conference in Homological Algebra. Over the course of three days, scholars from all over the world discussed “recent developments and applications of the homological methods in areas such as Commutative and Non commutative Algebra, Model Category Theory, Algebraic Geometry,” according to the conference website.

David Stone, Professor of Mathematics at Georgia Southern University, explained that homological algebra is “algebra, but not the algebra you learn in high school. It’s much more abstract. Algebra provides the tools we need to compute solutions to many problems from other branches of mathematics and the sciences. It is also of interest for its internal structure—homological algebra explores the deepest levels of mathematical structure.”

One of the trailblazers in homological algebra is UK’s Professor of Mathematics Ed Enochs. Stone described Enochs as a “Great teacher, brilliant mathematician, and one of the most humble, wise, compassionate, and sensitive persons I have ever met. I am honored to have been his student, and can only hope to manifest just a fraction of his qualities.”

The conference paid tribute to Enoch’s career, which has included mentoring countless students and directing more than 55 doctoral dissertations. About those many mentees, Enochs said, “The students I have had are such fine people. They have become lifelong friends.”

Enoch taught at UK for 48 years and recently retired. When thinking back on the high points of his career, Enochs shared that, “There were a few classes that just seemed to go great. I can even remember where some of the students sat.”

Chair of UK’s Department of Mathematics Russell Brown has been Enochs’s colleague for over two decades and can attest to his commitment to his students. “I occupied the office next to Ed for 25 years. I most often saw Ed in his office, with a student across the desk from him and together they were working out some mathematics. Ed was extremely patient with students who were struggling and his enthusiasm for mathematics encouraged many of his students to pursue further study.”

Several of Enochs’s former students and now colleagues, came together at the conference to honor Enochs. Casey Monday, assistant professor of Mathematics at Mount St. Joseph University, commented at Enochs’s retirement dinner that “He inspired each of us to share in his own love of mathematics.”

David Dempsey, professor of Mathematics at Jacksonville State University, noted that Enochs’ talk at the conference “was much like every class meeting we had: He would walk into class, greet us, pick up some chalk, and start writing and talking. His knowledge and memory were, and still are, astounding. His assignments and exams were challenging, but his grading comments were always thorough and helpful, never demeaning.”

The following people also chimed in on Enoch’s mentorship:

Naveed Zaman, Chair of the Department of Mathematics at West Virginia State University

“I was born and raised in Pakistan. I came to UK because of Dr. Enochs; and I am so glad that I did. Pretty soon I felt that I had been adopted by him and [his wife] Louise. They both were parents away from parents for me. For me, he has been a teacher, a mentor, a source of inspiration, and a role-model to live life. He has always been very pleasant and cheerful. I know that I can’t be like Ed the mathematician, but I sure strive to be like Ed the human being. I consider myself a blessed person and probably the most significant blessing was to be able to know and work with professor Enochs.”

Molly Dunkum, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Western Kentucky University 

“Many students have cherished and been cherished by Ed, and I know that I am no exception. He taught me a great deal of mathematics, but he has also taught me about teaching, writing, and how to be a mathematician. He has shown infinite patience, class, and humility from the moment I met him. I am incredibly fortunate to be part of his academic family.”

Art VanDeWater of River Falls, Wis.

“Without the guidance and direction that Dr. Enochs offered, not only to me, but to all of his students, I might not have survived the big hurtle of obtaining a Ph.D. Without a Ph.D., a person has limited employment - especially in education, but having the Ph.D. meant that I could apply for employment anywhere. Those 31 successful and enjoyable years were spent at one college and each time I walked into the classroom, I tried to take with me a care and guidance of my students the way Dr. Enochs did for his. I am forever indebted to Dr. Enochs for giving me the opportunity to be able to pursue what I wanted to do - teach.”

Tom Cheatham, Director of Tennessee STEM Education Center at Middle Tennessee State University

“From Ed I learned life lessons about how to teach and how to live my life. I learned to lecture for an hour with no notes because the organization was a natural flow. I learned to listen intently and to be patient.”

About his retirement, Enochs said he’s looking forward to “Reading, working in my garden, maybe some travel, and seeing friends and family.”