Math professor found his passion in life and hopes that his students can too

By Tyler Seabrook
March 23, 2020

Because mathematics is a core requirement, many students come in contact with the chair of the math department, Dr. John Brown.

Brown has been teaching at Cabrini for the last 21 years. He mentioned that it has been 18 years at the institution as a college and three years as a university.

This is a headshot of Dr. John Brown. Photo by Cabrini University

Brown had a unique pathway for finding his passion as a mathematics teacher. 

It goes a little bit like this.

He always knew that he liked math but didn’t know the exact direction he wanted to go with that degree. He was pursuing a degree in mathematics during his time in college.
Brown got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. 

So after Brown graduated with his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, he decided to follow the path of graduate school and obtain a master’s degree from the same university that he earned his bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute University.

Typically graduate students are ones who are recognized as teaching assistants, which usually meant running review sessions and reviewing tests. Since Brown already been at this university for the last four years, the mathematics department thought that Brown could teach his own class.

This idea was terrifying to Brown because he never thought about teaching beforehand. After he taught for a while, he discovered that he really enjoyed teaching college-level mathematics courses.  In fact, he went on to get a Ph.D. from Boston University. 

“My belief is the only way to have students grow is to be challenged,” Brown said. This shows how he holds his students to high standards. He also relates this idea to sports, where the coaches are looking to see if their players will “raise the bar” in the way they approach things in the classroom or on the field. 

The courses Brown teaches are freshmen calculus up to senior-level mathematics courses to prepare students for graduate school. 

Shaun Stackhouse, senior special education and mathematics major, provided great insight of his journey through the math department.

Stackhouse has taken Calculus I, Calculus III, Technology in Mathematics, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra and Probability and Statistics with Brown as the professor.

“Differential equations was very application based and this was why it became one of my favorites,” Stackhouse said. “I could see the results of our findings in real time. I enjoyed linear algebra because of the success I had in it and because it was one of the easier of the Brown’s courses.”

Stackhouse also enjoyed Brown’s class in linear algebra. 

Stackhouse was very aware of how Brown wanted to support each of his student’s within their coursework. He also already expected a heavy course-load due to being a math major. 

Katie Fiore, a senior math major, was excited to provide her insight into Brown. 

She has taken every course that Stackhouse has mentioned, plus she has taken Advanced Probability and Statistics. 

Fiore has enjoyed her Differential Equation and Advanced Probability and Statistics classes the most. 

“As math majors, we work with a lot of numbers and equations,” Fiore said. “In these classes, we also saw what they are used for and how they are integrated in the real world.” 

She likes how passionate about math Brown is, which makes the classes much more intriguing.

This is Brown’s schedule that students and faculty can consult to see when they could meet up with him. Photo by Tyler Seabrook

In Fiore’s opinion, Brown is so supportive. He cares about each of his student’s schedules to find at least one time a week that they could meet with him for help. This could be going over homework problems that are beneficial to try to understand how his test and quizzes could look like. 

“I took Calc 1, 2, and 3, Prob & Stat, Diff Q, Real Analysis, and Tech in Math with Brown,” Eric Soll, senior math major, said.

Soll shared that they were all applied math courses except real analysis is a theoretical math course. He is also in agreement on how supportive Brown is as a professor.

“The course load was pretty small overall,” Soll said.  “The tests and the time needed to study for them more than made up for that.”

Meghan Murtha, a 2018 alumna and currently a graduate student studying data science, provided her thoughts.

“My favorite classes I’ve taken with Dr. Brown are Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, and Differential Equations II,” Murtha said. 

Murtha was always confident that she could go to Brown if she had any questions with her coursework in any of his classes that she took.

These include Calculus II, Calculus III, introduction to linear algebra, Differential Equations, Differential Equations II, Technology in Math, Probability and Statistics and Advanced Probability and Statistics.

Another piece of evidence that Murtha reveals about Brown’s support for his students is that if none of the office hours work a given week, that he is willing to schedule a separate time for that student. They just need to communicate that with him and explain the situation with him.

This is a piece of essential equipment to bring when you go over math problems with any of your math professors. Photo by Tyler Seabrook

“If that is not dedication to his students, I’m not sure what more he could do,” Murtha said. 

David Madway, an instructor in the mathematics department, has known Brown since 2010.

“As a person I would describe him as kind, respectful and considerate,” Madway said. “ As a professor, I would describe him as brilliant, rigorous, fair, and very focused on student learning.”

Madway shared that he has learned many things over the years from Brown. They include being student-focused, that the course has to be structured to meet diverse-learners, to have high expectations of his students and about the importance of academic rigor. 

Madway would be heartbroken if Brown decided to accept a job at a different location.

Besides being so passionate about mathematics, Brown has developed some hobbies in his free time. These include gardening vegetables, creating things in his workshop located in his basement and spending time with his family. 

However, research into family history is a passion for Brown.  Over the last 40-years, he has been doing some genealogical work to trace his ancestors’ history.

From doing this investigation, he found that he is distantly related to Winston Churchill, Norman Rockwell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Bushes, and Lizzie Borden

 

Tyler Seabrook

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