Robert Eugene Megginson
Department of Mathematics
Ethnicity: American Indian, Tribe: Oglala Sioux
Year of Birth: 1948
Place of Birth: Washington, IL
University of Michigan
317 West Engineering
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
Voice (313) 936-0155
Fax (313) 763-0937
PhD Institution: Univ. of IL - Urbana-Champaign, 1984
Dissertation Title: The semi-Kadec-Klee Condition and Nearest-Point Properties of Sets in Normed Linear Spaces
Advisor: Mahlon M. Day
AM Institution: University of Illinois, 1983
BS Institution: University of Illinois, 1969
Robert Eugene Megginson grew up in a family that enjoyed and valued mathematics, which is certainly one of the reasons for his interest in the field. His maternal Native American grandfather never attended a day of formal school in his life, but was very well self-educated and was fascinated by mathematics. He loved to give Megginson small mathematical problems to work out (e.g., "If you have $2.00 and want to buy 17 stamps of the following denominations, ... "), and his interest in these sorts of problems certainly rubbed off. Megginson's father, whose family is from England, has a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics, and that also influenced his decision to go into mathematics.
However, Megginson did not do so immediately after getting his first college degree. After receiving his bachelor's degree in physics in 1969, he worked for eight years as a computer systems software specialist for Roper Corporation in Kankakee, Illinois, a Fortune 500 corporation that at the time primarily manufactured home appliances and lawn tractors. Before leaving to pursue his doctorate in mathematics, he had risen to the position of Lead Systems Software Specialist for the company, which put him in charge of all operating system software selection, development, and maintenance. Though this was an exciting and interesting position, he had come to know that his real love is mathematics, which was the reason for his decision in 1977 to return to college.
For the last decade, much of his interest and time have been absorbed by the problem of the serious underrepresentation of minorities in mathematics. One of only about a dozen Native Americans who are known to hold doctorates in mathematics, Megginson has served on and chaired numerous professional and national committees that address this problem. In addition to serving as the co-chair of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics, at this time (1998) he also chairs the MAA's Coordinating Council on Human Resources, as well as the Human Resources Advisory Committee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been an advisor to many programs of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and is a Sequoyah Fellow of the organization.
In addition to his committee and other advisory work on the underrepresentation problem, he has also spent much time working directly with students of color to help them succeed in mathematically-based fields. Since 1992, he has helped design and has worked every summer in programs for precollege students at Turtle Mountain Community College, a tribally controlled college of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation in North Dakota. The purpose of these programs is to keep Native American students in the Educational pipeline leading to college degrees in mathematics and related fields, and the programs are accumulating a record of success in doing exactly that. Megginson has also mentored many undergraduate and graduate students of color from varied backgrounds who have gone on to receive degrees in mathematically-based disciplines.
For his record of mentoring students of color and other work on underrepresentation, he was one of ten individuals who were honored to receive the 1997 U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. This award was given in a White House ceremony in September of that year.
Megginson has been a member of many other committees of professional organizations, primarily the MAA. In 1998, he was a member of the MAA's Presidential Task Force on NCTM Standards, Task Force on Member Services, the Advisory Board of "Math Horizons" magazine, and had just concluded a term as chair of the Committee on Trevor Evans Prizes. He was a candidate for First Vice President of the MAA in 1997 and a candidate for President of the MAA in 1999. Megginson was also the recipient of the 1999 Ely S. Parker Award of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, AISES's highest honor, which is given each year to one Native American scientist, mathematician, or engineer for lifetime service to the Native American community and contributions to his or her field of study.
Megginson currently lives in Brighton, Michigan with his wife, Kathleen, to whom he has been married since 1978. Kathy is also a mathematician, holding a bachelor's degree in mathematics as well as a master's degree in computer science and an MBA. She has worked for several corporations as a computer systems analyst, including sixteen years with IBM in Springfield and Decatur, Illinois as a database specialist.
Megginson's most recent publication is a textbook on Banach spaces. His main mathematical area is functional analysis, specifically the geometry of Banach spaces.