Stanley J. Bezuszka, SJ (1914–2008)
boston college mathematics institute
Stanley J. Bezuszka, SJ, a native of Poland, arrived in the US at an early age and received his primary and secondary education in Lowell, Massachusetts. After entering the Jesuit order, he continued his academic pursuits at Weston College, Boston College, and Brown University.
Fr. Bezuszka had a long and distinguished career in mathematics education. He led more than 1,000 presentations, workshops, and minicourses of a mathematical nature in the US and overseas, each presentation marked with deep insights about mathematics content and the teaching and learning of mathematics. His talks and conversation were invariably punctuated with humorous stories and anecdotes, the majority of which pertained to teachers, students, and their environment. His years of experience as a mathematics teacher at the university level, and as a frequent visitor to classrooms that ran the gamut from kindergarten to 12th grade, provided a wealth of subject matter and subjects for his lively imagination and keen mind to capture in print.
In 1990, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics honored their colleague in mathematics education by presenting Fr. Bezuszka with the Glenn Gilbert National Leadership Award in Mathematics Education for his outstanding service to the profession. In 1995, the Mathematics Education Trust Foundation of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics bestowed upon him its Lifetime Achievement Award for Teaching. And, in 2001, Fr. Bezuszka was inducted into the Massachusetts Hall of Fame for Mathematics Educators as a founding member.
Fr. Bezuszka entered eternal life on December 27, 2008, just one month shy of his 95th birthday. A number of memorials have been instituted by local, regional, and national groups to honor his memory and achievements:
- In November 2008, the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England (ATMNE) announced the Rev. Stanley J. Bezuszka, SJ Heart and Mind Mathematics Award. The first recipient of the award was Fr. Bezuszka.
- In March 2009, the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Massachusetts (ATMIM) initiated the first annual Rev. Stanley J. Bezuszka, SJ Achievement Award for Mathematics Teaching and Learning. The inaugural awardee was Professor Margaret J. Kenney.
- In September 2009, the Mathematics Education Trust Foundation of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics announced the establishment of the Fr. Stanley J. Bezuszka Professional Development Scholarship Emphasizing the History of Mathematics for Grades 6–12 Teachers.
Founding Director, Boston College Mathematics Institute
Stanley J. Bezuszka, SJ
"My Life has been interwoven with those of teachers.
They have been years of love for their friendship
and especially years of admiration for their unselfish
giving of themselves for their students."
— from Heart and Mind: A Classroom Odyssey
"And if there is only one thing
that you have to give to the young,
let it be enthusiasm —
kindled by curiosity and guided by love."
Reflections on Stanley J. Bezuszka
by Jim Rubillo, Executive Director, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
There is now a void at professional conferences of the mathematics education community that can never be filled. For over fifty years, the highlight of hundreds of mathematics conferences across North America has been the presentations of Stanley Bezuszka. Father Bezuszka’s talks were filled with wisdom, humor, insight, and a deep love of mathematics. Father Bezuszka was always attuned to the great mathematicians of the past. He unfolded the thoughts and ideas of his close friends (Pascal, Euler, Fibonacci, and Newton) so that teachers could see new and exciting ways to convey mathematics to their students.
Father B. was an icon for the leaders of mathematics education. For example, I knew that if I attended one of his sessions, I would see most of the major speakers at a conference because his was a session they would not miss.
Yes, everyone came to see Father B. We came to learn, to be inspired, and simply talk with him after the session. Oh, yes, Father Bezuszka always attended the sessions of others. He was there to learn, encourage others, and enjoy mathematics. He was our mentor and friend. The highlight of many of those infamous “Saturday Night Stay-overs” was sharing dinner with Father B. I clearly remember one evening when many of Father Bezuszka’s dinner partners were complaining about the “publish or perish” aspect of university life. After listening to his friends complain, Father B. noted that he was under an even greater pressure: “publish or parish.”
The impact of Stanley J. Bezuszka on mathematics education is beyond measure. Yes, we can note his long service at Boston College, and his service on the Board of Directors of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Yes, we can note the mathematics education community’s attempts to thank Father B. by presenting him with the NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award for Teaching and the NCSM Glenn Gilbert National Leadership Award, and many others.
It all seems inadequate. Father B. touched our hearts and our minds. He changed us. His legacy is generations of teachers and students who see the beauty of mathematics and the joy of problem solving — all mixed with enthusiasm, humor, and love.
Godspeed Father B.