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Internationally Known Mathematician Lindsay Childs Named Collins Fellow
December 28, 2009
University at Albany President George Philip bestows the Collins medallion on Lindsay Childs at the 2009 Winter Commencement. (Photo Mark Schmidt)
The award, named for former UAlbany President Evan Revere Collins, recognizes senior teaching faculty who have shown "extraordinary devotion to the University and the people in it over a sustained period of time." Collins was president from 1949 to 1969.
In joining the mathematics department in the last year of Collins' tenure, Childs became part of a highly collegial group of young faculty charged with creating a doctoral program in mathematics. This gave them a strong sense of responsibility for the University's future. "The Collins Award is especially meaningful for me, because it reflects my continued sense of responsibility for the mission of the University even as UAlbany has matured into a major research university," he said. He served as department chair in the early 1980s and again in 1991. In 2001 he received a Library Advocate Award.
In introducing Childs at the 2009 Winter Commencement, Provost Susan Phillips said, "Professor Childs is a voice for the University's common and critical purposes and functions. He has been among the very best of our citizens, one who can be relied on to look beyond specialized interests for the results that serve the larger, common good."
Born in Boston, Mass., Childs earned a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University, and a doctorate from Cornell University. As an undergraduate at Wesleyan, Childs discovered his passion for mathematics. One day the professor proposed to the class an unsolved problem in elementary group theory, which Childs eventually solved completely.
"The realization that I could do something creative in mathematics was very exciting," he said. "Throughout my career, I've continually tried to recreate that excitement with my research. I've also tried to share that excitement with my graduate and undergraduate students, and related to that, to try to have students in my courses understand that mathematics is a living science with many remarkable new results only discovered within my lifetime." In 2002 Childs won the University's President's Award for Excellence in Research.
The math department has been central to Childs' life and career. He met his wife Rhonda there, where she was a non-teaching professional. They wed in 1972.
Students describe Childs as a gifted mathematician who is helpful and accessible. "I've tried to be available to students as much as possible," said Childs. "Advising, encouraging, and working with students outside of class has been an important part of my work, and I hope that our interaction has helped them to get more out of their educational experience at Albany," he said.
In recent years, mathematics has become increasingly important in business, with high-tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon hiring many mathematicians. Citing a 2006 Business Week quote from the chief of the mathematics research group at the National Security Agency, Childs said, "There has never been a better time to be a mathematician."
Off campus, Childs was involved for more than 25 years in planning and zoning for the Town of Guilderland, and from 1980-1986, he was the McKownville correspondent for The Altamont Enterprise.
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