Little ‘Bits

by minton on July 20, 2021

Growing up, one of my friends was the son of a mortician. He’s now the leader of The Ted Vaughn Blues Band. We were trumpet buddies in the band, and made jokes about everything, including his Dad’s ghoulish profession.

Years later, I was sitting in on an Honors Math and Art class listening to film maker Vanessa Gould discuss her documentary on the world of origami (Between the Folds) and her more recent documentary on The New York Times obituary writers (Obit). The subject of obituary writers struck me as ghoulish and probably boring, but Ms. Gould was wonderful in class and so I dutifully watched Obit … and loved it!

The writers who were profiled, a couple of whom were fairly eccentric, had the challenging task of hastily throwing together online research and phone interviews to produce a faithful and interesting summary of a person’s life work. In the process, they invariably developed an admiration for and even love for their subjects. Although I had never thought of my own work as obituary-related, this is exactly what I had been trying to do with pieces for the department newsletter and blog.

A November 2014 blog article on Al Bayse illustrates the pleasure in writing such articles. I knew nothing about Bayse other than a rumor that one of our graduates had become an assistant director of the FBI. I got some information courtesy of College Archivist Linda Miller, and then stumbled onto several online (recently declassified) descriptions of Bayse’s work and personality. It all fit together into a cohesive picture of a highly successful and likable man. The published article prompted comments from relatives and co-workers that further cemented our “friendship” and capped a great experience.

Much to my surprise, it turns out that I enjoy writing obituaries, intimate reflections on life that try to do honor to a friend. However, I much prefer doing such pieces on the living (e.g., graduating seniors)! Check out Vanessa Gould’s documentary Obit and the podcast Mobituaries for interesting takes on the obituary. The book Obit by Jim Sheeler has several wonderful little life stories. Here’s a short list of my pieces on the deceased and living.
Al Bayse; Bob Hudson; Emery Wade; Bill Brubaker; Dick Minnix; Jane Ingram; Jeff Spielman; Bill Ergle;
Eric Lee; Megan Wheeler; Agnes Handal; David Moreau; Emma Blair

Eric Lee and Actuarial Science Secrets

by minton on May 18, 2021

Eric Lee is graduating as Roanoke College valedictorian with a major in Actuarial Science (Honors in the Major), and a minor in Economics. Impressive, yes, but that only begins to scratch the surface of what Eric has accomplished at Roanoke. He sang in the choir, going to France with the choir to sing at Normandy on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He is an impressive pianist, performing as accompanist for a Theatre Roanoke musical. And he passed exams P, FM, and IFM!

In case that last line did not provoke awe, you should know that the actuary profession is always one of the top-rated jobs in terms of working conditions, salary, and stability. Actuary science is the science of risk, studying data to predict the future and manage financial strategies (e.g., insurance companies setting rates). Entry to the actuary profession is restricted through exams administered by the Society of Actuaries. Our major at Roanoke College is designed to help students prepare to pass the first two exams, on Probability and Financial Mathematics. Pass those two exams and throw in an internship experience and you are highly marketable!

Eric passed those two exams, which helped him land a very prestigious internship with Willis Towers Watson in summer 2020. He then passed a third exam on Investment and Financial Markets, which earned him a job as an actuarial analyst at Geico. The internship and job would be impressive in a normal year; it is spectacular in COVID times, and is due in large part to Eric’s success on the exams.

What is Eric’s secret? I asked him in an interview:

So don’t let the gecko tell you that 15 minutes will do it! You might wonder if all of that work is worth it. Here is Eric’s answer.

You can hear more of Eric’s interview at this link.

Congratulations to Eric for his accomplishments, which make us all very proud. We wish him the best as he starts what we are sure will be a highly successful career and life!

Megan Wheeler and Sports Analytics Secrets

by minton on May 15, 2021

Megan Wheeler is the first person to graduate Roanoke College with a concentration in Sports Analytics. The concentration is an interdisciplinary mix of sports management (Megan’s major), statistics (another concentration for Megan), and computer science. The concentration provides a background for students who might want to pursue a career in sports analytics.

For more information about the Sports Analytics concentration, follow this link. One of the requirements for the Sports Analytics concentration is connected to Stat Crew. You can find information about Stat Crew and an interview with Megan at this link.

Megan has been a member of Stat Crew all four years, collecting data for RC athletics in soccer, basketball, and lacrosse (and only missing baseball due to the covid shutdown). She has presented research at Furman University’s Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting and James Madison University’s SUMS conference. Her enthusiasm, dedication, and recruiting ability have been essential to the success and growth of the group. Megan is a definite Stat Crew Hall of Famer!

If you are interested in Sports Analytics as a career, there are several good podcasts to listen to. Three that I can recommend that feature interviews with people working in the field are Measurables, Expected Value, and Sports Analytics. Most interviews conclude with the host asking for advice for college students interested in the field. What is the secret to getting a job in sports analytics? Here are a couple of quotes from Measurables.

“There’s no excuse for not having some kind of public presence, maybe not a full portfolio but at least a presence. Prove that you’re interested in how the different companies talk about themselves.” Simon Banoub, CMO of StatsBomb, Measurable 1-25-21.

“Resumes are nothing. I’ve seen a thousand resumes and I don’t care about your resume. I care about what you can do, what kind of creative thinker you are. The only way I can measure that is by looking at your prior work.” Brian Burke, Analytics Specialist at ESPN

Sports analytics is a possible career choice for Megan, and she has created a strong research record to impress potential employers. You can see some of Megan’s research at this link. Her presentation includes a nice shout out to Stat Crew. Thanks, Megan!

See RC Math Books Grow!

May 12, 2021

Roanoke College mathematics professors Karin Saoub and Hannah Robbins have each had textbooks released in April! The books, published by CRC Press, join a long line of textbooks from RC mathematics faculty. Karin’s Graph Theory: An Introduction to Proofs, Algorithms, and Applications was tested in her MATH 268 (Combinatorics and Graph Theory) course, and introduces […]

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Karin Saoub Receives High Honor!

April 23, 2021

Congratulation to Dr. Karin Saoub, who was recently named the Dr. M. Paul Capp & Constance Whitehead Professor of Mathematics. A prestigious honor, this 5-year award provides funding for a physics or mathematics professor in order to supplement their efforts of furthering their research and of providing students with meaningful research experiences. Once a purely […]

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Bill Ergle, RC Legend

February 23, 2021

One of Roanoke College’s greats passed away last Friday (2/19/21). Bill Ergle, long-time faculty member and chair of the MCSP department, was 81 and living in Atlanta near his beloved children, Christi and Mike. Roanoke College got to know Bill quite well over his 44 years of teaching and service. He was chair of what […]

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Vote for Mathematics

October 21, 2020

I voted yesterday. That is only noteworthy because it is still October. Early voting is one of the nicer firsts in 2020. One of the amendments on the Virginia ballot would establish a commission to try to reduce gerrymandering. This is on the heels of an excellent MCSP Conversation Series on gerrymandering by Ellen Veomett […]

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Physics Major, Conor Kinkema, wins All American Scholar distinction

July 10, 2020

Conor Kinkema has been named as a 2020 CSCAA (The College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America) -All American Scholar Click here to read the press release  

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Talk Physics to Me !

April 21, 2020

Sigma Pi Sigma celebrations.  These unusual times call for unsual ways to do things. One this is certain; fun and physics dont change, even in these uncertain times. This year, the physics group found a way to carry on the tradition of celebrating our students’ induction to the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society. It retained  […]

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On Heroes

April 3, 2020

A conjunction of events provoked me to think about the role of heroes in our lives. Spoiler alert: in what follows there are no Marvel* heroes or even a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. To me, an interesting article is a great gift. RC History professor John Selby came across two items in quick succession that he […]

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