Parsons Lecture

In 1998 a Mathematics alumnus from UNC Asheville provided an endowment, in honor of Joe Parsons, to fund this annual lecture series. The goal of the Parsons Lecture is to provide the UNC Asheville community with the ability to attend locally a presentation by a nationally renowned mathematician speaking on a topic accessible to the general audience. Speakers for the lecture series are invited to present a lecture not just because of their renown as mathematicians, but also for their skills as educators and orators. The endowment is used to fund travel and other expenses incurred by the speaker and department. Find information on the Parsons scholarship here.

2019 Parsons Lecture

The 2019 Parsons Lecture was given by Professor of Mathematics at Berry College Dr. Ronald Taylor. The experience that most people have with math is through manipulating symbols or doing numerical calculations. But seldom do we hear of mathematics as something that is done for enjoyment. However, once we have an understanding of patterns, we can apply this knowledge to a variety of things that people do for fun, even activities that do not necessarily seem mathematical. This talk explored a recreational perspective of mathematics and looked at examples of mathematical structures found in origami, games and card tricks.

Past Parson Lectures

  • 2018 – “From Monroe to NASA” by Dr. Christine Darden. Darden’s character was featured in the 2016 book “Hidden Figures.”
  • 2017 – “Playing from a Laptop: Sports Analytics” by Dr. Tim Chartier, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Davidson College
  • 2016 – “Chaos Games and Fractal Images” by Dr. Bob Devaney, Professor of Mathematics at Boston University
  • 2015 – “The Shape of Space” by Dr. Jeffrey Weeks, Middlebury College
  • 2014 – “The Right Treatment for the Right Patient at the Right Time: Personalized Medicine and Statistics” By Dr. Marie Davidian, NC State University

About Joe Parsons

Joe Parsons grew up on a farm in western Tennessee and graduated from high school at 15 in 1931. In order that he might get a teaching certificate, a friend gave Joe enough money to attend his first year of college. He completed his undergraduate work and went on to the University of Tennessee for his graduate degree.

When Joe started at Asheville-Biltmore College (what is now UNC Asheville), he was the entire Math Department, and through much of the 1970’s he was the chair of the department. Other roles he filled at UNC Asheville include Dean of Students and Academic Dean. Joe also helped formulate the current plan of the UNC Asheville campus including the choice for the library to face Mt. Pisgah. The view from the library steps is admired on campus. He also was instrumental in the development of the first 4-year curriculum when UNC Asheville joined the UNC system.

Joe matched his dedication to this institution with his dedication to his students. Joe was known to students at UNC Asheville as a wonderful teacher with a good sense of humor. He personally founded an endowment for student scholarships in mathematics. Even in retirement he could not stay away from the classroom, reading for elementary students at Claxton school here in Asheville. Until his death on Sunday ,September 24, 2006, Joe continued to contribute to education in his community. He will be missed.

In 1998 one of Joe’s former students provided an endowment for the Parsons Lecture series to honor the dedication of this great educator and continue his legacy.