A Fairmont State University graduating senior in mathematics is selected yearly by the FSU mathematics faculty to honor outstanding undergraduate work in mathematics. The award was named in honor of James A. LaRue who was the Fairmont State mathematics department chairman and taught mathematics for 34 years until his retirement in 1988.
The award was instituted in 1983 when Randy Baker, a current member of the FSU Computer Science department, was selected as the first recipient.
During his career, he taught 5364 students at Fairmont State, West Virginia University, Morris Harvey College, and Ohio State University. In the 1960s, he directed a three year National Science Foundation Cooperative College and School Science program for selected high school teachers and their students who excelled in mathematics. Dr. Jeanne Harris was one of those students and later became a member of the FSU mathematics department until her retirement in 2012.
In a 1989 article, Dr. LaRue explained what he felt was the focus of his career. “Advocating increased standards and curriculum improvement at local and state levels for elementary and secondary systems, as well as higher education, was a high priority during my career. I also sought to encourage and inspire outstanding students to pursue mathematics as a career.” Numerous Fairmont State graduates have completed graduate degrees and many have earned Ph.D.’s in mathematics.
Dr. LaRue was inspired by his high school math teacher Ivy Hustead to apply for meteorology school at Hamilton College when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943. During World War II, he served as a radio gunner and flew missions from Bari, Italy. He worked at Fairmont Glass and Fairmont Machinery prior to enlisting. After being discharged in 1945, he later graduated from West Virginia University and then earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Pittsburgh.
He enjoyed farming, hunting, and fishing. He loved math and always had an interesting problem for anyone willing to try. He taught many of the mathematics teachers in the surrounding area who are now sharing their love of mathematics with their students, as he did with them.
A plaque in the College of Science and Technology contains the names of all winners of the James A. LaRue Mathematics Award since 1983. Below is a list of those selected for the award.