Bill Ralph, former Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, has a problem he can’t solve.
Even with a storied career in Brock University’s Faculty of Mathematics and Science, he can’t determine the amount of people he’s taught, let alone calculate the spread of his math teachings passed down from his students to their students.
An educated guess would be that his knowledge has been imparted to thousands of other brilliant minds.
The Faculty is hosting a gathering, Bill Ralph’s Last Lecture, on Wednesday, Feb. 5 to celebrate the stories and impact that the dedicated Ralph has had on his students.
“The Faculty is proud to have Bill share his fine career with a new audience,” says Dean Ejaz Ahmed. “Even after a retirement, the Brock family feels the lasting positive effects our professors leave behind. Bill will always be one of us.”
The gathering, which will take place in Pond Inlet from 3 to 4 p.m. with free coffee and desserts, will give Ralph’s colleagues, students and friends the opportunity to learn what Brock means to him through a winding collection of stories and anecdotes, spanning more than 30 years.
Mathematician, associate professor, visual artist, pianist and computer scientist are just some monikers reserved for Ralph. His published papers are found in the Brock Library. His art hangs on the walls in the entrance to Mackenzie Chown’s J-block.
One of his greatest accomplishments is being the mastermind behind the Mathematics Integrated with Computers and Applications (MICA) program.
After three years studying piano and composition in Toronto, he picked up a math textbook when visiting a bookstore and asked himself, “Just when am I going to learn this?” He decided at that moment to go to the University of Waterloo, where he eventually completed his doctorate in Pure Mathematics.
Ralph is humble in his approach to learning and hasn’t met a subject that hasn’t sparked his interest. The cross-pollination of ideas and ability to draw from a multitude of sources allows his creative side to fuel his mathematical approach when working in a new area of study.
And yet, he describes himself as an average mathematician.
During his time at Brock, his approach to teaching evolved along with student needs and the availability of computers. From diligent rote calculation practice, then to model building and making a keen effort to help students understand concepts. The advancement of computers allowed students to save hours on raw calculations and focus more on applications and concepts. In class, he regularly asked students what problem they wanted to solve and enjoys seeing them use the course material to solve problems in creative ways.
It wasn’t uncommon to find Ralph sitting directly beside his students in classes — one of many examples that explain why he’s so missed at Brock since his retirement.
Those interested in attending Bill Ralph’s Last Lecture are encouraged to RSVP to email@example.com