Richard Good
Professor Richard Eslinger (left) presents long-time Pi Mu Epsilon supporter, Professor Richard Good, the C. C. MacDuffee Award at MathFest in 1980.

It is with the deepest sympathies that we report the passing of Dr. Richard Albert Good on Monday, November 24, 2008, at the age of 91.  Dick, as he was frequently called, was the Valedictorian of the 1939 graduating class of Ashland College (now Ashland University) in Ashland, Ohio.  In 1945, he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His thesis was On the Theory of Clusters and was directed by Professor Richard Bruck.  Dr. Good taught at the University of Maryland for 43 years.

Dick was well known for his copious collection of wonderfully colored shirts tailored by “Jo”–his beloved wife of 53 years.  One summer while teaching a course for high school teachers trying to learn the new math curriculum, the students noticed and started talking among themselves that Dr. Good had not repeated the wearing of a shirt.  This was an easy observation since the shirts were so distinctive. The students then challenged him to make it through the whole summer term without repeating a shirt.  It was a point of honor to accept this challenge and to meet the challenge without a wardrobe augmentation from the very excellent Jo, and he did just that!

Brother Good (as I liked to call him) was well known for his wit and his keen sense of humor.  Dick’s humor was perhaps best described by his son-in-law, William Harman, in a eulogy he gave at Dick’s memorial service.

"…A bit of fun and a touch of whimsy seemed for him a requirement for doing anything, even mathematics, and he communicated that light touch without surrendering his sense that humor is always possible no matter how serious the endeavor.  Let me offer my own rather memorable first example of encountering this.

In 1971 Dick and Jo’s daughter Mary and I decided that we wanted to get married.  I agreed, with much hesitation, to broach the topic with Mary’s father, whom I barely knew and presumed at first to be a rather stern figure.  During the planned dinner in the Good home I awkwardly procrastinated bringing up the matter until the very end of the meal.  Nervously, and as formally as I thought appropriate, I summoned my courage to say “Dr. Good, I would be honored and pleased to have your approval in receiving your daughter’s hand in marriage.”  After one of those long periods of silence with which he was always more comfortable than just about anybody else, Dick looked at me severely and then with an impish smile, he said, “Only her hand?  Wouldn’t it be better to marry all of her?”  That was my first introduction to a wit I had not, to that point, anticipated.  But it was by no means the last I saw of his delightfully disarming playfulness."

Dr. Good was also well known for his innovative pedagogical techniques, and his interest in mathematics education.  Not so well known is that one of his graduate students won a Nobel Prize and that he was years ahead of his time in support of women in mathematics.

The relationship between Richard Good and Richard Andree was one of deep friendship beginning in graduate school and continuing over their entire careers.  With Dick Andree’s extensive commitment to Pi Mu Epsilon (Editor of the PME Journal, Secretary-Treasurer, and President), it is only natural that his best friend would join him in this labor of love.  In 1975, Dr. Good succeeded Dr. Andree as Secretary-Treasurer and served in that capacity until 1987.  Good then served as Councillor from 1987 until 1993.  However, his service to Pi Mu Epsilon did not stop there.  He continued to be active in the Society and attend Council Meetings into his late 80’s in the self-described capacity of “old fogy”.  His love for the Society was contagious.  The Council benefited tremendously from his support, his service, his warmth, and his wisdom.  We will miss his mild manner, his ever-present smile, the twinkle in his eye, and that special spin he gave to mathematics.

Robert Sefton Smith
Pi Mu Epsilon President 2002-2005