In Memoriam: Harry Lucas, Jr. (1932-2022)

I was saddened to recently read of the passing of Harry Lucas, Jr., who was a great proponent and benefactor of inquiry-based learning (IBL). To remember his contributions to the mathematical community, I certainly won’t be able to surpass the eloquent words of Michael Starbird in the June-July issue of MAA Focus.

Instead, I’ll share a little bit about my own interactions with Mr. Lucas. My first administrative position at my university was the founding co-director of Teach North Texas, a UTeach replication of the pioneering program UTeach program at the University of Texas for preparing teachers of secondary mathematics and science. I first met Mr. Lucas at the annual UTeach conference, and I don’t remember how it came up, but he personally encouraged me to submit a proposal to the Educational Advancement Foundation for the funding of equipment typically found in physics labs to get our university’s new Functions and Modeling course off the ground. Thanks to his generosity, hundreds of UNT students have experienced IBL firsthand early in their mathematical studies, often giving them an eye-opening new perspective on the way that mathematics “should” be taught. At future conferences, Mr. Lucas always had a keen interest in how Teach North Texas was progressing and seemed delighted to hear of our successes.

In the words of Dr. Starbird, “Mr. Lucas is one of very few individuals whose personal vision, decisions, persistence, and encouragement have clearly improved the lives of thousands of students and teachers across the country.” Thank you, Mr. Lucas.

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