KST Cover

2010 Alumni Distinguished Teacher
Dr. Beverly Ferrucci

Keene State's legendary professor of mathematics explains how mathematics research is her form of artistic expression.

Dr. Beverly Ferrucci photo by Wright Studio

At Opening Convocation before the start of classes, all first-year students assemble outside the Appian Gateway and march down Appian Way, led by drummers and a bagpiper. Faculty and administrators in academic regalia follow them, and staff members line the route to clap the students into Keene State, just as they will be clapped out at commencement.

One of the finest moments of the convocation ceremony is the presentation of the Alumni Distinguished Teacher of the Year award, a coveted honor. This year's award was presented to Dr. Beverly Ferrucci, professor of mathematics, who has taught at Keene State for more than 20 years. She has trained mathematics teachers at all levels and has personally and professionally supported the involvement of women in the field.

Internationally renowned as a mathematics educator, Dr. Ferrucci has been invited to conduct research and lecture in more than 60 countries, including Cuba, Vietnam, Russia, Malaysia, and Mozambique. She has made significant contributions to mathematics education research in Southeast Asia and has been a faculty member of the National Institute of Education and the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore for two years. In addition to many other professional affiliations, she has served since 1996 as the editor (and the first woman in that position) of the New England Mathematics Journal.

Dr. Ferrucci grew up in Rhode Island, and her parents, Dr. Dominic and Josephine Ferrucci, encouraged their daughter to follow her dreams. She earned a bachelor's degree from Boston University, a master's from Rhode Island College, and two doctorates, one from Boston University in mathematics education and the second from Boston College in psychometrics.

In her remarks to Keene State's newest students, Dr. Ferrucci conveyed her lifelong passion for mathematics and how it has entwined with her love of teaching. Here, edited for our magazine audience, is Dr. Ferrucci's address to the class of 2014.

I encourage you to seek your own passion, to follow it, to build upon it, and make your passion the beacon of your life's journey.

Dr. Ferrucci's Address to New Students

President Giles-Gee, members of the platform party and the Keene State College community, faculty colleagues, students, and invited guests, I am deeply honored to be sharing this day with all of you and with the memory of my parents, without whose love and support I would not have had a career in mathematics nor would I be the person that I am today.

Members of the class of 2014, you have successfully completed your high school education and are entering a new phase of your life. At Keene State College you will have new experiences, make new friends, attend a variety of classes, and participate in activities that will be different from those you have previously pursued. You will share your diverse personal circumstances and pursuits with each other and begin to explore the many opportunities that will help forge your future lives and careers.

It is very rewarding for me, as a professor, to interact with students who have such a varied range of interests and backgrounds as you do. I particularly look forward to helping students see new ways of experiencing mathematics. To me, good teaching is about immersing yourself in your academic area, caring deeply for your students and your profession, being enthusiastic about your teaching, and conveying that enthusiasm to students like you, our newest Keene State College students.

This year you will have professors who, like other teachers you have likely known, are passionate about their subject. That is, professors who earnestly believe that teaching students to think profoundly and powerfully about their chosen fields is extremely important work. Professors who believe deeply in what they do and who will inspire you to think and believe deeply as well. As you enter Keene State College, I encourage you to seek your own passion, to follow it, to build upon it, and make your passion the beacon of your life's journey.

My passion, my form of artistic expression, is to research and teach how other cultures learn and use their knowledge of mathematics. This passion extends well beyond the bounds of the traditional classroom's four walls. This passion has led me to explore different parts of the world to see how other cultures view, learn, and use mathematics in their everyday living.

For example, I have observed how many economically and educationally deprived women living in Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe have taught themselves geometric concepts so that they can create beautiful, intricate designs and patterns in their handicrafts and artwork. I have stood in ration lines with Cuban families in Havana, seeing how they mentally - and accurately - calculate their allotted food expenditures in the face of severe shortages. I have compared how disadvantaged children in Rio de Janeiro and children of the Bedouin tribes in Jordan use properties of number systems and estimation skills while working as street vendors. I have traveled to Moscow to see how Russian kindergarteners learn how to multiply and divide with little wooden trees, and I have taught mathematics teachers in Singapore, the country whose elementary and secondary school students consistently score the highest in the world on international comparisons.

As a professor my greatest satisfaction and reward comes from helping my students see the value of connecting mathematics to their own lives, their own culture, and to the cultures of other societies. I have found living my passion to be a profoundly enriching and enlightening experience. By choosing to follow your own passions, I firmly believe that you, too, will find an extraordinary basis for a fulfilling life.

This recognition today energizes me and encourages me to continue pursuing my passion. It is time now for you to start exploring your passions and to use those explorations to facilitate a satisfying and productive future.

I would like to read two short quotations for your class of 2014. The first is from Georg Hegel, a 19th-century German philosopher, who said, "Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion." Another appropriate quotation is from the famous African American Harriet Tubman, who said, "Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."

I personally believe there is no greater honor than for me to be recognized for my craft, my work, and my life's passion. Thank you so much for this recognition.