Douglas Underwood Memoriam
The following was authored by long time friend and colleague Patrick Keef, and sent to the Whitman community on June 23, 2021.
I am sorry to report that Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Douglas Underwood passed away on June 2. He was a revered teacher and mentor to several generations of Whitman students and a highly valued colleague to those of us who had the privilege to work with him.
Doug was totally dedicated to his students. It always seemed that he was the first person in the building in the morning, the last to leave in the evening, and except when he was in class, his door was always open and his office filled with students. He also had a wonderful dry sense of humor that touched all of us who knew him well.
Growing up in Hiram, Ohio, Doug attended Case Western Reserve University, where he originally intended to study engineering, but ended up pursuing mathematics. He was a living link to the Maxey era at the college, arriving at Whitman in 1958 after earning his master's degree in mathematics from UC Berkeley. Doug was so young when he first set foot on campus that when his teaching career ended forty years later in 1998, he still was able to take advantage of Whitman's early retirement program.
The life of a faculty member at Whitman when Doug arrived might not be recognizable to those of us who currently teach at the institution. The standard teaching load was ten courses per year. There was no sabbatical program and no funding for professional development. Even still, the college could boast of a collection of dedicated and gifted teachers, such as Art Rempel, Tommy Howells and Doug Underwood.
Doug was a fine mathematician, and in spite of the heavy teaching loads, he was able to complete his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin in 1968. His Ph.D. thesis was published by the Journal of Mathematics, Kyoto University, and the paper received significant praise in subsequent reviews. In 1980, he spent a sabbatical year at Washington State University taking classes in computer science and, together with Dick Thomassen, he developed Whitman's very first offerings in the subject.
Doug was a superb teacher and in 1990 he was the recipient of the Lange Award for excellence of teaching in the natural sciences. His meticulously crafted lectures were models of clarity. He also wrote two textbooks, one a calculus text based upon student self-discovery of the subject and the other a linear algebra text. Besides his long teaching career at Whitman, Doug also spent two years teaching at the Naval Postgraduate School, as well as several summers teaching at the University of Washington and Case Western Reserve.
Doug was also deeply involved in the life of the Walla Walla community, and in 1982 he was recognized with the Whitman College Town-Gown award. The organizations that benefited from his engagement and support included Walla Walla's youth soccer league, the Rotary Club, the local Democratic Party organization, Pioneer United Methodist Church and the Walla Walla Symphony Chorale.
In recognition of his many outstanding contributions to the college and its students, Doug was appointed to the Alexander Jay Anderson Professorship in 1985.
He is survived by his daughter Judith, a computer scientist, and his daughter Deborah, a writer.