A&M System Regents Professor Kirby delivers second in ‘Last Lecture’ series



STEPHENVILLE (September 8, 2015) — Tarleton State University Professor of Mathematics and Texas A&M University System Regents Professor Dr. James “Jim” Kirby delivers the second talk in The Last Lecture Series on the Stephenville campus at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The free, public event takes place in the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center Auditorium. The auditorium opens at 6 p.m. with music provided by pianist T.W. Dunn. A reception with light refreshments follows Kirby’s talk, “The Power of Positive Thinking, Even… No, Especially… in Mathematics.”

While The Last Lecture is free, tickets are required. Tickets are available at the Fine Arts Center in Room 105A, the Center for Instructional Innovation, the Tarleton Student Government Association office (Thompson Student Center, Room 32), the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council or at Bruner Motors.

The Last Lecture tradition invites professors to share what they would say if it were their last opportunity to address colleagues and students. The Last Lecture began in 1955 when UCLA featured six lectures from some of its most distinguished figures, including philosophy professor Abraham Kaplan, chemistry professor Kenneth Trueblood and legendary basketball coach John Wooden. Each shared his life philosophy through the lens of his discipline, interests and personal experiences.


The Last Lecture has become tradition at many universities, gaining popularity in 2007 when Dr. Randy Pausch delivered a talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch’s lecture—and subsequent book, The Last Lecture—became famous as he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with only months to live.

At Tarleton, the Last Lecture Award is the only faculty award selected entirely by students. Beginning last spring, students were invited to nominate an outstanding professor who has inspired and influenced them in their education and outlook. Students were asked to consider the nominations and select a professor to give a lecture that answers the question: “If you had but one final opportunity to address your students and colleagues, what would you share with your audience?”

The student body selected Kirby as the second speaker in the Last Lecture Series after the inaugural Last Lecture at Tarleton was delivered by the late Professor of History and A&M System Regents Professor Dr. Christopher Guthrie. Guthrie was asked by the university’s Faculty Fellows to serve as the first lecturer. After the initial lecture, student government developed a voting process for the fall 2015 speaker.

Kirby joined the Tarleton faculty in 1983 as an assistant professor of mathematics. Since his arrival, he has taught undergraduate courses including algebra, trigonometry, probability, statistics, calculus, non-continuous mathematics and mathematical modeling as well as graduate courses such as operations research and optimization. Kirby received tenure and was promoted to associate professor in 1989 and to professor in 1995.

During his more than three decades at Tarleton, Kirby has been published nine times in the College Mathematics Journal and has had contributions in, Mathematics Fallacies, Flaws and Flimflam by Edward Barbeau. He has presented 12 papers at professional meetings of the Mathematical Association of America.

Kirby has been the recipient of numerous honors, awards and research grants, including the Phi Eta Sigma Distinguished Teaching Award, the O.A. Grant Excellence in Teaching Award and the Jack and Louse Arthur Excellence in Teaching Award. He is also a Regents Professor of the Texas A&M University System.

Kirby was a sponsor of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society for 18 years. He served as assistant and then official sponsor of the local chapter, vice president and then president of Region 1, which consists of New Mexico, Oklahoma and the western two-thirds of Texas, and finally as a member of the National Council of Alpha Chi. Under his sponsorship, the local group was chosen out of 315 chapters as the most outstanding in the nation in 1997. Administratively, he served as interim department head of Mathematics, Physics and Engineering in the 1990-1991 school year.

A native Texan, he received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Tarleton State University and his master’s and doctorate from New Mexico State University.

For more information about the Last Lecture Series at Tarleton, visithttps://online.tarleton.edu/fdi/LastLecture/kirby_lastlecture.htm.

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