New scholarship helps recruit top math students.

By Christina Masciere Wallace

Numbers and problem solving have always fascinated John Hoover '82, a math major who went on to become an actuary. As one who appreciates the beauty and power of numbers, he has created a new merit scholarship for first-year math students to help Bucknell recruit the country's top talent in the field.

"Ideally, this award will attract prospective students who might otherwise choose another school," Hoover says. "It's designed for someone who is passionate about math and interested in elevating the standards of math students in the department."

The John C. Hoover Scholarship is a four-year, renewable award that provides about $10,000 each year. In return, recipients are asked to engage with faculty and other students by participating in math activities that are interesting to them, explains Professor Karl Voss, department chair. "That might mean undergraduate research, working with student groups or participating in competitions," he says. "We look to these students for help in creating the math community and helping it thrive."

Prospective students with superior math skills can choose from a variety of fields, including physics, chemistry, statistics, engineering and financial services. Competition to enroll math whizzes is keen among colleges and universities. To help increase Bucknell's odds, the math department has provided about three merit scholarships per class per year since the arrival of the Class of 2012. Math faculty members work with the Office of Admissions to identify the most promising applicants with an interest in math. As with the Hoover award, recipients are expected to maintain a level of engagement.

That requirement is a pleasure for those who truly love math for math's sake, like Matt Mizuhara '12. He has performed undergraduate research since his arrival at Bucknell; he helps organize student events through the Math Association of America; and he's participating in a competitive summer research program funded by the National Science Foundation.

"Bucknell was my first choice, and the scholarship was the cherry on top," Mizuhara says. "The involvement part really opened up a whole new life for me in terms of mathematics. The true richness comes from being so close to faculty and other students who have a pure love of math. If I hadn't had the scholarship, I may not have experienced this when I came to Bucknell."

Hoover hopes his scholarship program will help more students have an experience similar to Mizuhara's. He cheerfully admits that although he did well at Bucknell, he could have taken better advantage of the opportunities to become more involved in mathematics, like Mizuhara, whose involvement in university mathematics may continue well beyond his graduation next spring. He says, "I would love to go to grad school and get my doctorate and teach at a liberal arts school much like Bucknell.

Posted: January 19, 2012