Apr. 18, 2012

Professor is among the country's top professors in 'Princeton Review' survey

Gary Towsley

Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics Gary Towsley, a 38-year faculty member at Geneseo, is being recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities in The Princeton Review's guidebook, "The Best 300 Professors." /PHOTO BY KEITH WALTERS '11




For 38 years, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics Gary Towsley has helped students learn math and how it fits into other disciplines, from painting to poetry. He has brought math into a comprehensive worldview, teaching courses such as History of Mathematics, Real Analysis, and Poetry and Cosmology of the Middle Ages.

His philosophy and style have earned him a place in The Princeton Review's new guidebook, "The Best 300 Professors."

The educational services company teamed up with RateMyProfessors.com, the highest-trafficked college professor ratings site in the United States, to create the guide, which profiles outstanding professors at 122 colleges. Selection was based on qualitative and quantitative data collected by both organizations from undergraduate students at thousands of colleges across the country about their classroom experiences and assessments of their professors. Towsley is one of five SUNY professors and among 17 from New York state who are included in the guide.

"To be honest, I'm not surprised to hear about Gary's selection as one of the country's best," said Provost Carol Long. "His reputation as a consummate scholar is well-known on our campus, and I frequently hear from students about the impact he has on their learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. He has my high esteem."

Towsley was named a distinguished teaching professor in 1998 and has published widely in his field. Among his favorite classes is Poetry and Cosmology in the Middle Ages, which he co-teaches with Dante scholar and Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Ronald Herzman.

The Princeton Review editors credited Towsley for his "ability to account for the varying levels of skill and understanding in his classes by trying to challenge those who already understand the material, while simultaneously being patient and supportive with those who feel they are lost."

"The most rewarding part of teaching is watching a student go from one who simply responds to questions and problems to one who has developed the intellectual power to answer questions and solve problems," said Towsley. "In all my courses I try to show how mathematics, seen in the context of other disciplines, can be both a practical and theoretical tool. For example, in the Poetry and Cosmology course, some very basic mathematics can open up entire new modes of interpretation and understanding of texts."

Neither the professors nor colleges are ranked in the book. Profiles are organized by academic fields with more than 60 fields represented from accounting to engineering to writing. Within each field, the profiles are presented alphabetically by name.