Thoughts from John Mathias

A post Reunion communication from John Mathias:

 

Tex,

I remember taking Math 3 (finite mathematics/probability theory) from Prof. Kemeny in Spaulding with well over a hundred other students.  It was heavily subscribed and widely known as a "gut" because the exams were easy and almost everyone got an "A."  As it turned out, the exams were in fact subjectively "easy" only because Prof. Kemeny was such a superb teacher that we all understood and learned exactly what he wanted to get across.  If you attended his lectures, probability theory seemed so logical and straightforward it was almost obvious.  Same thing for the final exam--a walk in the park.  We got all the answers right, scored 100%, and were awarded an "A" for the course.  The very few who didn't get an "A" instead got a "D" or failed entirely, as they had never attended his lectures.

Prof. Kemeny believed that his job as a teacher was to be so effective that all his students would learn everything he wanted.  He judged himself accordingly.  It pleased him that virtually everyone got all the answers right on the final exam, except for those who didn't show up for class.  That's exactly what he set out to do.

When I look back today at the subject matter of Math 3 (finite mathematics/probability theory), I can't believe that I actually understood it at one point in my young life.  I've forgotten almost everything by now, because it was then and continues now to be really dense and difficult stuff.  John Kemeny was among the greatest teachers of all time.

Best regards,

John