NMSU’s first endowed professorship in mathematical sciences established

By Megan Hansen ’06 ’09 and Minerva Baumann ’13

In the fall of 1979, Dante DeBlassie ’80 took a math class that helped shape his perspective on teaching math.

DeBlassie, the associate head of the mathematical sciences department at NMSU, went on to receive his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and now helps lead the department he was once a student in.

He also is the first recipient of the Charles and Nita Swartz Endowed Professorship in mathematical sciences, which is a first such honor for the department in the NMSU College of Arts and Sciences.

Charles and Nita Swartz are long-time supporters of the university. Charles, an NMSU professor emeritus from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Nita, a retired Las Cruces elementary and middle school math teacher, were motivated to establish the professorship to ensure the strength and development of the department into the future.

The professorship provides a continuous source of financial support to fund research activities, salary enhancement, and other scholarly expenses for a valued faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

“It is a singular honor to be selected for this endowed professorship, especially when the department has so many outstanding and deserving faculty members,” DeBlassie says.

Before he was an endowed professor at NMSU, DeBlassie was a student in one of Charles’ math courses as an undergraduate.

“I was in his Math 473 class in the fall of 1979,” DeBlassie says. “He was outstanding. His lectures were clear, to the point and thorough. It was obvious he put in a lot of time and effort preparing them. To this day, I use him as a role model.”

“Dante survived one of my classes, so we know he can persevere,” Charles Swartz joked during a ceremony to honor the new professorship and its inaugural awardee in July 2019. During the ceremony, the Swartzes presented a check to the NMSU Foundation.

“This department has a magnificent reputation and we wanted to create a permanent investment in it that would enhance the prestige of the program and positively impact faculty and students,” Charles Swartz says.

“Aside from the prestige associated with the professorship, the endowment gives me the chance to attend conferences and visit/bring in collaborators to do research,” DeBlassie says. “At some point, when the endowment matures, there will be the opportunity to fund postdocs. These activities are vital to keep the math department strong. It is a real game-changer for the department and it will have lasting impact.”

The couple expects the endowed professorship also will promote a greater interest in STEM among NMSU students and attract talented graduate students to the department.

“I could not be more pleased by this substantial new investment in our faculty,” says Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It is well known that NMSU’s Department of Mathematical Sciences is among the very best in the nation, and the new Swartz Professorship will now give us an added edge in faculty recruitment and retention.”

This endowment extends the Swartzes’ history of giving back to the university, which is preceded by two endowed scholarships they funded in the College of Arts and Sciences during NMSU’s 2018 Giving Tuesday.

The Charles Swartz Endowed Scholarship helps graduate students in the mathematical sciences, and the Nita Swartz Endowed Scholarship supports international women graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The couple has traveled to more than 80 countries together and seen firsthand the impact of education across the globe. They hope their scholarships will aid underfunded graduate students as they pursue their academic goals.

“Education is the key to the problems this world is facing,” says Nita Swartz, “These students work very hard and are so worthy of a little bit of help. You can come to NMSU and get a good education – and there is help.”

 

Dante DeBlassie, (right) professor of Mathematical Sciences, receives the Donald C. Roush Excellence in Teaching Award during NMSU’s 2018 Spring Convocation ceremony from then Chancellor Garrey Carruthers .

NMSU President John Floros (from left) stands alongside Nita and Charles Swartz as the couple presents an endowment gift to the NMSU Foundation and Tina Byford, then interim vice president for University Advancement. The celebration in July 2019 recognized the first endowed professor in the mathematics department, Dante DeBlassie. College of Arts and Sciences Dean Enrico Pontelli and Mark Gladden, former development officer, also joined the ceremony.

With the creation of the Charles and Nita Swartz Endowed Professorship in mathematical sciences, the couple not only helps the department attract faculty and graduate students but also promotes STEM interest among NMSU students.