Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Houston, TX, and am a graduate of Evan E. Worthing High School of the Houston Independent School District. Worthing High is well-known because of notable athletes and entertainers like Super Bowl Champions and Oakland Raider Clifford Branch, Hall of Famer Chicago Bear Michael Singletary, Olympian Debra Edwards, and Grammy Award-winning recording artist Terri Ellis of En Vogue, to name a few. Other esteemed notables that attended Worthing High, in addition to myself, include the following academicians who went on to earn PhDs in Mathematics and are currently professors at HBCUs. They are Dr. Charles Pierre (Clark Atlanta) and Dr. Willie Taylor (Texas Southern).
Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
As early as I can remember, Mathematics has always been one of my favorite subjects. I was fortunate to be taught by some of the most talented and amazing secondary Mathematics teachers during my formative years. Mary Alice Alexander, my favorite of all, taught me Geometry and Evelyn Chevalier Guidry, the toughest one, taught me Algebra 2. In addition to teaching me, Mrs. Guidry also taught Drs. Pierre and Taylor, and Mrs. Alexander was Dr. Taylor’s neighbor. After a few years of wandering around in the wilderness, I chose Texas Southern University to continue my education after being placed on academic suspension at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (SUBR). I ended up taking Dr. Taylor’s Calculus class because it was the only section that did not conflict with my schedule. One day, I had to go to his office because he graded a homework assignment incorrectly. That office visit resulted in me figuratively becoming Dr. Taylor’s suitemate as I would visit his office every day to work problems. We would also meet up in his office to work on problems on Saturdays. It is my belief that God placed all of those individuals in my life to assist me in honing the talents He provided me.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?
When I was an undergraduate student, Drs. Taylor and Della Bell would arrange for students to go to the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM) MATHFest Conference. The first year I went, SUBR was the hosting college. Having experienced the MATHFest Conference, I started taking students to conferences once I became a professor at TSU. My proud career accomplishment to date occurred when I was recently awarded the Outstanding Service Award by the Gulf States Math Alliance (GSMA), one of the regional Alliances in The National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences. This award was given to me because my colleagues in the GSMA wanted to recognize me for the efforts I have put on mentoring students, exposing them to the Field of Dream and the GSMA Conferences, and encouraging them to pursue and ultimately earn PhDs from an Alliance or GSMA school. Ironically, I received the award at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the university I initially left on academic suspension, and that was bittersweet.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?
As a child of parents who did not complete college and a maternal grandmother who did not finish high school, my proudest accomplishment is premised around me being the fourth African-American, the second African-American male, and the second graduate of TSU to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Houston. While now deceased, my parents were both alive to see me earn my Ph.D. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to share these accolades with my parents.
Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.
I thought I was a failure when I left Southern University on academic probation; however, I was wrong. I simply had to understand that failure does not mean that you are a complete failure. It means that you have not succeeded yet (Robert H. Schuller). I could not have achieved what I thus far if God had not placed the right individuals in my path. While I cannot pay God or any of those individuals back for helping me, it is instrumental that I pay it forward and help other young college students who may be struggling like I did during my earlier years in college and have yet to find their purpose in life. I also inspire my students to develop great work ethics because of the African proverb that states, “You are beautiful but learn how to work because beauty is not something that you can eat.” Lastly, I encourage my students to serve God in all they do for Colossians 3:23 tells us that “Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart as unto the Lord and remember it is the Lord you are serving and not man.”