Chris Towse: Number One

by Breedeen Murray '04

I met Professor Chris Towse on the first day of new student orientation. He was not only the first professor I met, but also the one who had the greatest impact on me, although I had no idea that this would be the case when my family and I joined him and President Bekavac for lunch on the lawn that afternoon. I was excited to start my first year at college, but by then had grown a little weary of the inevitable question “What are you going to major in?” which Professor Towse asked me almost immediately. At that point, I had no idea where my many interests would take me. “But not math,” I answered.

Chris Towse turned out to be a math professor. Whoops!

Later that week, I failed to place out of the math requirement and therefore wound up taking Math 23 with none other than Professor Towse. I remember his very first assignment, to find his office, a place I would visit many more times in the years to come. By the end of my sophomore year, I wound up eating my earlier words when it came time to declare my (first) major—mathematics, of course.

Classes and office hours were not the only times I saw Professor Towse. He set up a weekly math lunch on Fridays, which I attended almost unfailingly, dragging with me whomever I could convince to join us math majors. Every semester we would also have a math department BBQ or trip to Buca di Beppo’s. Professor Towse was the only professor I ever felt comfortable enough with to ask to drive me to the airport.

I took my first upper-division math class, “Mathematical Analysis,” with Professor Towse. It was both the hardest class I ever took and my favorite. My friend and fellow math major Kate took the class with me. We would work on homework assignments together, often during dinner at the Malott Commons. Sometimes, when we were stuck on a problem, we would walk back to the residence halls via the courtyard in Balch Hall just to see if the light was on in Professor Towse’s office. Despite the late hour, it often was, and we would climb the stairs to ask our questions, or sometimes just to tell him to leave and go home already!

From that first semester in Math 23 to my last semester taking “Classical and Modern Geometries” and “Abstract Algebra” while writing my thesis, Chris Towse was an influential figure in my life. I cannot think back to my time at Scripps without remembering him. I wonder now what I would be doing today if I had not met Professor Towse—certainly not preparing to become a high school math teacher. I plan on inspiring lots of students to go to Scripps and pursue math—so watch out, Towse, the math department is going to keep on growing!


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