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Department of Mathematical Sciences remembers late professor

Passionate and devoted to the success of her students is how colleagues in New Mexico State University's Department of Mathematical Sciences remember Caroline Sweezy. The NMSU mathematics professor, who played a vital role in the department for the last 24 years, passed away Nov. 6 at the age of 68, after battling cancer.



NMSU mathematics professor Caroline Sweezy, 68, passed away Nov. 6, after battling cancer. (Courtesy photo.)

"She was a very private person, but when it came to the university she was very involved," Mathematical Sciences Academic Department Head Joe Lakey said. "It won't be the same without her. She was always so reliable and such a pleasure to work with."

Sweezy graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Ph.D. in mathematics. She began teaching at NMSU in 1986, and during her tenure taught calculus and undergraduate- and graduate-level mathematical analysis, participated in numerous campus programs and, most importantly, worked to ensure the success of her students.

Beginning in 2002, Sweezy organized the "Great Southwestern Math Competition" for New Mexico high school students. She was active in the Mathematics Modeling Competition for undergraduates.

Sweezy served on the Arts and Sciences College Improvement of Instruction and Student Relations committee. She was also an active member of the department's Undergraduate Majors and Minors committee and for many years served as committee chair, overseeing advising, writing recommendations for scholarships and assisting students with graduate school applications.

Between 2000 and 2002, 40 NMSU students from disadvantaged backgrounds received scholarships thanks to a grant written by Sweezy and Mathematical Sciences Professor David Finston. The $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation provided financial assistance to students majoring in engineering and/or math.

In addition to teaching, serving on committees, writing grants and initiating various service projects, Sweezy found time to conduct research in partial differential equations and measure theory.

"She was so diligent in everything she did," Finston said. "She was so fantastic with students and helped them with their problems, both academic and non-academic."

Sweezy, Finston and Kitty Berver, then director of distance education, worked together to obtain another $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program. The program provided extra course support for NMSU calculus students and was instrumental in the implementation of summer institutes for high school students.

The project developed four summer institutes for students from 15 New Mexico high schools, to encourage students' interest in the disciplines of biology, physics, chemistry and engineering. Online courses also were created to allow students to gain dual credit.

Finston plans to continue the work they started together. He and other department faculty plan to submit another NSF proposal to provide access to graduate mathematics programs, with special attention to students from groups traditionally underrepresented in mathematics.

"I'm really going to miss her," Finston said. "It's rare that you find someone as devoted as she was to the development of their students."