Professor Gary Towsley among top in nation

The Princeton Review, in collaboration with, named Gary Towsley, distinguished teaching professor of mathematics, one of the nation’s top 300 professors. The Princeton Review compiled what they consider to be the top professors of 2012 into a guidebook titled “The Best 300 Professors.”

Towsley, who has been teaching at Geneseo for 38 years, received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester.

The Princeton Review profile of Towsley mentioned his ability to encourage all students in their mathematical endeavors “by trying to challenge those who already understand the material, while simultaneously being patient and supportive with those that feel they are lost.”

“One can make up 20 other lists of the 300 best professors in the country, and none of the lists would have the same people on them,” Towsley said regarding the distinction. “It’s very random … I mean, I like being on it, but I think one could be on many, many such lists.”

Towsley explained his partiality for teaching interesting courses, specifically MATH 221: Calculus I and INTD 354: Medieval Studies - Poetry and Cosmology in the Middle Ages with Ron Herzman, distinguished teaching professor of English.

“Those are two of my favorites,” Towsley said. “But I have lots of favorite classes.”

In Calculus I, Towsley said, “It is really where students begin to see some very serious mathematics and it being applied.”

“It’s just a wonderful story to tell about what mathematics is all for, and it’s usually first-semester freshmen that I have, and that’s always fun,” he said.

“Ron [Herzman] and I have done this [poetry and cosmology course] now for certainly the last 20 years about every other year,” Towsley said.

“We end up reading Dante’s Paradiso at the end, but there’s a load of math and science in it that he refers to,” Towsley said. “We develop all of that by reading Plato and Boethius earlier on, and it really makes the reading of Dante much richer than it would be without it.”

“We’ve had wonderful, wonderful students over the years that come out of here doing great stuff,” he said.

Towsley’s current course list includes MATH 228: Calculus II for Biologists, MATH 324: Real Analysis I, MATH 325: Real Analysis II and MATH 390: History of Mathematics.

Towsley said that his fifth course, INTD 288: History of the Physical Sciences, is “a one-credit team-taught course with [associate professor] James McLean of physics and [associate professor] Joe Cope of history. We’re pairing up physics students and history students to work on things together and present posters at G.R.E.A.T. Day.”

Towsley said he is fortunate to teach classes that he is passionate about.

“I’ve been able to do the teaching that I like to do with the Poetry and Cosmology course and other team-taught courses,” he said. “I’ve team taught with eight or nine people from eight or nine different departments over the years, so that’s been very good.”

“My favorite thing about the job is that the students are good, and they are constantly pushing me to do other things,” he said. “That’s been the case since I started here.”