By: Fathema Ahmed
Professor Maurice Vodounon of the Mathematics & Computer Science Department at John Jay passed away on Wednesday, August 27 of an undisclosed illness. The John Jay community learned of his passing via email sent out by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Jane Bowers.
Vodounon lived in Riverside Drive with his wife and two daughters. His daughters are currently both in college. Professor Emerson Miller of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department remembers having one of his daughters in his summer class this past semester.
Vodounon received his bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Niamey, in Niger in 1978. He obtained his master’s in Mathematics from Columbia University in 1990 followed by a second master’s in Mathematics Education in 1992. He completed his doctorate in mathematics education in 1994, also from Columbia University.
Vodounon was from Nigeria and one of few African Americans to graduate with a degree in the STEM field, “Black people are 12 percent of the U.S. population and 11 percent of all students beyond high school. In 2009, they received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4 percent of master’s degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics,” stated the Huffington Post in an article.
The former chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science department Sydney Samuel also went to Columbia University for his education degree in mathematics. His advisor had recommended Vodounon for the position of lecturer when the department was conducting a search. The present chair of the department Douglas Salane was on the personal budget committee that decided to hire him.
“He made an ideal candidate because he could understand students, he got along with the students. At the time his versatility was good too, he was able to teach both Mathematics and Computer science classes,” stated Salane.
He had published works both in Mathematics and Computer Science including the textbook College Algebra, Technology and Cooperative learning Approaches which was published by Pearson Education Publishing in 2001.
He also had works in progress including “Perceptions Displayed by Novice Programmers Exploring the Relationship between Modularization Ability and Performance in the Java Programming Language” and “Analyzing the Effects of Graphing Calculator on Calculus course designed for Computer Science and Forensic Science Major” which were both under review for publication. Vodounon had several grants from PSC-CUNY to do his research.
“He was very personal, very warm, very pleasant mannered, every approachable. He was always very encouraging to me. He was doing a lot of work in the major at the time and he was always very versatile, continued Salane.”
Salane stated that Vodounon was able to teach both mathematics and computer science which made him versatile.
“Especially years ago we used to have five majors and we didn’t have the faculty we have now. It was very important. Maurice and I wanted to keep the major going, keeping these students with instructors in the class,” said Salane on why it was important for Vodounon to be versatile.
Along with his educational side Vodounon was also invested in his family, “He had two daughters who he was very, very proud of and as our families grew we would constantly compare notes and advice of what we should be doing, to help out each other. He was “very, very interesting,” stated Salane when asked about a good experience he had with Professor Vodounon.
“You look back 25 years and you’re sharing all these experiences, it’s like going back a lifetime. Your families go from little children to big children. It’s not part of the academic side of what we do but it’s part of the personal side,” continued Salane.
His daughters are currently both in college. Professor Emerson Miller of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department remembers having one of his daughters in his summer class this past semester.
“It was a pleasant experience having her in my class. She is very enthusiastic and motivated about learning, just like her father,” said Miller about having Vodounon’s daughter in his class.
Professor Vodounon’s illness eventually got the best of him. He was sick for about two years. He was scheduled to teach courses this semester, these courses were Math 108 and Math 141.
“We had thought that he had overcome his illness. During the time that he was sick he didn’t take time off, he was still teaching. He was being treated for the illness but whatever it was came back, stated Salane.”
Maurice’s family is currently planning a memorial service. Information about the service will be sent out to the John Jay community about the service as soon it is received stated Bowers.