Featured Alum: William Horner, Mathematics 1980

I graduated from CBC in 1980 with a B.S. in Mathematics. As a high school student I had little interest in mathematics, but my mathematical curiosity bloomed while taking calculus courses as part of the engineering curriculum. Eventually it dawned on me that my interest in mathematics far exceeded my interest (and talent) in engineering, and I became a math major. Drs. Yanushka and Becker were my professors for most of my upper division math courses. I recall that they were both excellent lecturers. It was not until after my graduation from CBC that I learned that they are gifted researchers as well. There were quite a few math majors for a school the size of Christian Brothers, and classes were rather large. It was clear to me that my professors were highly dedicated to their work, and to this day I sincerely appreciate their encouragement and guidance.

After getting my bachelors degree I earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Memphis State University. For the past 20 years, I have been a faculty member of the mathematics department at the University of Southern Mississippi. My doctoral thesis was in Differential Equations, but after publishing a few papers based on my dissertation I switched my area to Analysis and Operator Theory. I had the good fortune to collaborate with three professors from Memphis State and “haunted” their department for several summers after taking the job at USM. My research has probably been the most fulfilling aspect of my job, though I enjoy teaching as well. Our department is small for a university having around 15,000 students, so I’ve taught over 25 truly distinct courses.

The job opportunities for our bachelors recipients are quite variable, of course, with three of the major determinants being the student’s academic record, choice of minor, and willingness to relocate. Students who choose Computer Science as a minor tend to fare particularly well, and a number of our students have found positions with defense contractors and the like. The graduates of our master’s program have found good jobs, several teaching at the community college level and others entering industry. At least 6 of our master’s students have gone on to earn Ph.D.’s in mathematics or engineering, and I am happy for their success and to have been a part of their training. While I’m handing out (unsolicited) career advice, let me sound a note of caution to undergraduate mathematics majors contemplating graduate school. If you anticipate earning a Ph.D. in mathematics, then the importance of getting your degree from a highly ranked program cannot be overemphasized. Please take a careful look at the faculties of several mathematics departments, paying special attention to where these folks got their degrees. You might be surprised to find that a large percentage of math Ph.D.’s earn their degree at topfight schools, and consequently departments which are not among the elite can attract faculty from these prestigious programs. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a large and seemingly perpetual oversupply of research mathematicians. This has all the implications you might imagine. While my case may represent an “outlier”, I am a full professor in a math department at a state university, with 20 years experience, who would require a raise of several thousand dollars to match the salary of a novice chemical engineer with a bachelor’s degree. But having a math degree can be lucrative as well. Periodically our department solicits data from our graduates, including salary ranges, and it is clear that a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, with good grades and some computer background, can put you on the path to a prosperous career.