**Seymour (Sy) Schuster**, age 94, died on October 31st. He had tested positive for COVID-19 on October 28. Sy taught Mathematics at Carleton, beginning as a visiting associate professor in 1958. For 5 years, he led the College Geometry Project, returning to Carleton in 1968, and retiring as the Laird Professor of Mathematics and the Liberal Arts, Emeritus, in 1994.

Sy taught advanced courses in geometry, combinatorial theory, and graph theory, as well as entry level courses, and published on these topics throughout his life. He was an enthusiastic and popular teacher, welcoming conversations on many subjects with students outside of class.

Sy was equally active in departmental efforts, contributing ideas and hard work, and mentoring younger colleagues. He was also very active in campus committees, including the Committee on Social Responsibility in Investment, the Faculty Affairs and Personnel Committees, and the committees that drafted statements on discrimination and academic freedom, and policies on sexual misconduct.

Sy had a wide-ranging influence on the teaching of mathematics. In 1961, Sy co-convened a conference at Carleton about undergraduates doing research in math. This was the first larger conversation about this idea, leading to thousands of students across the country doing research annually now. Between 1963 and 1968, Sy received a National Science Foundation grant to create The College Geometry Project to improve the quality of math education for high school teachers. Bringing together mathematicians and filmmakers, they made instructional videos for teachers.

Sy was also very involved in county and state politics, serving on the State Central Committee of the DFL Party for 10 years. He was instrumental in helping to reverse Paul Wellstone’s tenure denial at Carleton and made crucial contributions to each of Wellstone’s Senate campaigns. Northfield residents remember Sy helping to teach high school students about activism during the Vietnam War and supporting the work of the Organization for a Better Rice County (OBRC), a community organization written about in Wellstone’s *How the Rural Poor Got Power.*

Sy also knew how to have fun, playing in a monthly poker game for over 40 years, going on fishing trips with friends, and backpacking and fly fishing in Wyoming and Montana. His ability to connect with people was evident throughout his life, including with current students at Jewish holiday celebrations. One colleague wrote that “Sy combined deep seriousness, compassion, and wit more thoroughly than anyone else I have ever known.”

Read more about Sy’s life in a *StarTribune* article.

Sy’s family has created a memorial website that includes a more detailed obituary, a photo gallery, a way to leave remembrances, and a link to donate to the Sy Schuster Award for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion given by Carleton’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

If you’d like to make a memorial gift to Carleton, please indicate “in memory of Sy Schuster” on your check or in the box on the online giving form.

*Sy delivered the following address at the annual Honors Convocation in May 1994. *

## Comments

In loving memory of Sy Schuster

Carl and I came to Carleton in 1964. Sy was away on leave but everybody we met talked about him. Long before we met we knew he was an intellectual force on campus.

When Sy & Marilyn returned we became good friends. We loved Sy’s political thoughtfulness and activism. As opposition to the War in Viêt Nam grew so did Sy’s active opposition. That and his support for tenure for our colleague Paul Wellstone were powerfully influential and not only at Carleton. We remember with great fondness and respect. Carl & Ruth Weiner

I was sorry to hear about Sy's passing. Many have spoken of what a wonderful teacher he was. Actually, there were a great many first-rate teachers at Carleton, but Sy was surely up near the top. As a Math major, I took Calculus IV and Geometry from him. What I remember most is what others have already noted, which was his ability to mix humor and mathematics. Of course the humor had a strong mathematical bent to it.

Once in Geometry he spoke of a theorem (I don't remember what) that was true in three dimensions but not in two. Somehow, that fact had been overlooked for a very long time -- people sort of bleeping over a proof by saying something like "imagine the three dimensions being compressed to two -- at the end of that process, the theorem is true for two". Sy's reaction was "So what was that -- taking the limit of a theorem??".

He told us he had disconcerted a philosophy professor by explaining that he did indeed think in the projective plane, not the standard three dimensions. It seems that Kant or some such person thought that was impossible.

My favorite was from Calculus IV. He was illustrating a mathematical point, of course, when he told us that what he had told his wife was that if she was ever at a faculty party where mathematicians were talking shop, she could always shut them up by asking "What happens at the boundary?"

The last time I saw Sy was at our 30th reunion in 2006. We mostly talked about the Paul Wellstone documentary which had just come out and which he had helped with. However, I had found a copy of his 1962 book "Elementary Vector Geometry" in a Cambridge used bookstore, which I showed him -- I think he was tickled that I had it. I gather it was part of the effort to improve Math education in a post-Sputnik world -- it was based on a course he taught for high school math teachers at Carleton in the summer of 1959. (In fact, I think David Appleyard told me that as an undergraduate he had helped some with it.)

I've just been looking at it again. Those who had him for any course will recognize how characteristic it is. The blurb says it's designed to go much slower than such courses usually did, so as to give the students time to absorb the basics. In the preface he says "I have tried to develop very little machinery but to go a long way with this small amount", which is *very* characteristic. Plus the humor: "Sincere thanks and appreciation are due to the teachers who came to Carleton in the summer of 1959 in the hope of comfortably learning mathematics in cool Minnesota but who, instead, labored and perspired under the strains of vector geometry and the 96% humidity."

He had a great mind and a great heart, which we could sure use more of in these dark days. He will be missed.

Sy and I had adjacent offices in Goodsell for many years, both of which opened into the department meeting room. To the non-mathematician, Sy’s office appeared cluttered with piles of books and papers on every horizontal surface. But we knew that his multi-stack system was provably as powerful as a Turing machine.

Sy would usually meet guests who sought his counsel in the meeting room for lack of sitting space inside his office. Thus I was often privy to at least the beginnings of his discussions before I was able to close my door. The visitors included planners of fishing trips as well as faculty meetings. For many good outcomes for the faculty Sy was involved, at least behind the scene. In addition to tenure denial cases he was proactively involved in many more cases for the welfare of junior faculty by assuring that procedures were upheld and that voices that tried to subvert fair processes were muffled. He was the departmental steward, the advocate for the faculty and the enlightener of the administration.

He was always encouraging with students be they political activists, first year students in introductory courses, or majors seeking advise on graduate schools or positions in industry. In seemed that he was especially helpful to women and under-represented minorities and most of all those planning on teaching math at the secondary level.

He was so personable that his influence and stature as a mathematician might be overlooked. He helped develop my own interests in geometry, graph theory and combinatorics often posing problems with computational solutions that led to more general algorithms. Mathematicians at national meetings, even for many years after his retirement, would ask about him and remark on his contributions.

I especially recall his slight smile when he had a pleasurable memory. So may I have them too as I remember him.