James Brumbaugh-Smith appointed to Oppenheim endowed chair 

Manchester professors Beate Gilliar and Jim Brumbaugh-Smith dance to Leroy Anderson’s “Blue Tango” at a 2021 Manchester Symphony Orchestra concert.

Andrew Rich offers words of wisdom to today’s students

James Brumbaugh-Smith ’84 has been appointed to the Isaac and Etta H. Oppenheim Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences endowed chair at Manchester University.

“It has been a privilege to serve the students and faculty of my alma mater for 28 years, supporting students and colleagues in pursuing their intellectual and creative journeys.  And I am honored to follow the many outstanding teachers of mathematics who have held this professorship, including Drs. Andrew Rich, Stanley Beery and Ralph McBride,” Brumbaugh-Smith said.

This comes upon the retirement of Rich, who taught at Manchester for nearly three decades and was the Oppenheim endowed professor.

“Jim is a committed, passionate professor who lives Manchester’s mission. Students benefit from his effective teaching and his deep concern for their well-being. His colleagues consistently place him in positions of immense responsibility, and he serves with trademark reliability and precision,” said Judd Case, dean of arts and sciences. “One of the most wonderful things about Jim is the way he extols others’ virtues and skills. If you meet him in the hallway or linger after a meeting, you are likely to hear him share a story, anecdote, or comment about how a member of the MU community is extraordinary and valuable. Beneath Jim’s expertise, thoughtfulness, and Oppenheim medal is a generous heart.”

James-Brumbaugh-Smith Brumbaugh-Smith first came to MU in 1980 as student, graduating in 1984 with a degree in mathematics and computer science.  He went on to pursue graduate work in mathematical sciences at Clemson University, completing his master’s degree in 1985 and his doctorate in 2000.

He was an instructor of mathematics at Manchester from 1992 until 1995. Brumbaugh-Smith returned in 1997 as an assistant and then associate professor of mathematics and computer science.

He was department chair from 2006 to 2017, has taught 23 different mathematics, data science and computer science courses, and led the Values, Ideas and
the Arts Committee.

“He is a valued collaborator and has been particularly committed to peace studies,” MU  Vice President Celia Cook-Huffman ’86  said, noting that he was a consultant and developer for the National Index of Violence and Harm, a project of the Manchester College and Peace Studies Institute from 2000 to 2008.

“The history of this endowed chair goes back to the summer of 1889, when North Manchester College Normal School opened. Isaac Oppenheim’s sister was a member of that very first class,” said President Dave McFadden ’82.

The Oppenheim family came to North Manchester in 1875 when Isaac’s father established the Oppenheim department store on Main Street, now home of the North Manchester Center for History. Isaac Oppenheim was a member of the North Manchester Board of Education for 15 years, and he and his wife sponsored concerts and donated money for equipment and other needs at the college.

The Isaac and Etta H. Oppenheim Chair of Mathematical Sciences fund was established through the generosity of Etta Oppenheim.

‘Don’t be in a hurry’
Andrew Rich works on a sign before embarking with students in a raft on the Eel River.

Andrew Rich taught mathematics at Manchester for three decades and was granted emeritus status before he retired after the Spring 2022 semester.

He came to work at Manchester in 1992 after earning his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Chicago and teaching at Kansas State University. He was eager to work at a smaller college because it reminded him of Bethel College in Kansas.

“I grew up as a campus kid because my dad taught at Bethel,” Rich said. “I always thought that if I would be a teacher, I would want to teach at a place like that. I saw that Manchester had an opening for a math professor … and I thought Manchester would be a good fit for me; a smaller college, which was where I wanted to be rather than teaching at a big state university.”

Rich taught nearly every mathematics course that the university has to offer, from Linear Algebra and Geometry to Discrete Math and Calculus. He was involved in planning and designing the Science Center and was among the first to move into the building when it was completed in 2005.

After a long teaching career, Rich looks forward to travel, particularly visiting the Mediterranean and Japan. He has also been eager to spend more time with his family, which includes his first grandchild.

There are some things that Rich will miss, particularly the students. “Being a teacher has been a big part of my identity for many years now,” he said.

“There’s a certain amount of joy in being in front of the classroom and interacting with the students. I’ll miss that.”

When asked if there was one thing he would like to tell his students, Rich said, “Make sure to enjoy every stage of life that you’re in. Enjoy being a student in college because you have opportunities as a student that you’ll never have again. When you’re in college and you’re surrounded by all these other people who are in a similar situation, it’s really easier to make and maintain friendships than it is later. Don’t be in a hurry to rush through it. You just have to enjoy each stage that you’re in.”

He then jokingly added: “I want to say something like, ‘Math can really be fun,’ but that might go over like a lead balloon!”

–Senior Carly Greaves and Anne Gregory