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Personal tributes to Izaak Wirszup

Last updated: Feb. 7, 2008

Professor Izaak Wirszup influenced the lives of many in mathematics education. His work in the translation of mathematics materials from other countries and in mathematics curriculum development has established his reputation world-wide. His manner and heroic life will continue to inspire the many mathematics teachers his life has touched.

— Francis (Skip) Fennell, President
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and Professor of Education
McDaniel College, Westminster, MD


I had recently quit my high school teaching job in disgust, and was aimlessly doing part time work at a local college in Colorado when a colleague gave me Izaak Wirszup’s article “Education and National Survival: Confronting the Mathematics and Science Crisis in American Schools” from the December 1983 Educational Leadership magazine. It put into words the problems I had been facing in the classroom and offered hope for solutions. Eventually it compelled me to apply to the U of C graduate school in education (simply because that was where he taught) and that changed my life. I shall miss Izaak a great deal, and mathematics education will miss him even more.

— Jim Flanders, Ph.D. 1992 Mathematics Curriculum Developer, CEMSE/UCSMP.


In mathematics education and mathematics, each of us in the profession feels a great loss of Dr. Izaak Wirszup, our beloved teacher, leader, and friend. He had the incredible characteristic of making each person the object of his attention and support. His smile, his advice, and his interest in every aspect of education were the blessings he bestowed on those individuals who had the great good fortune to be his colleagues.

The diversity of his work and his dedication to mathematics education enriched all of us. He was always challenging us to become aware of curricula from other countries and to become open to new content. Learning from him was a unique experience.

Dr. and Mrs. Wirzup revealed to all the benefits of a loving and caring marriage and their gifts of hospitality. They brought joy and wonderful memories to each contact with them.

As Izaak celebrated life, we will all celebrate our friendship with him. I am personally grateful to have had the opportunity to have known him.

Thank you very much for sharing his wonderful history via Jerry Becker.

— Shirley M. Frye


I was saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Wirszup. Although I don’t believe that I ever met him in person, many years ago I called Professor Wirszup about my concerns about school mathematics in New York State. He was very worried then about school mathematics in the U.S. If I correctly recall, he was going to testify before Congress.

May this good professor rest in peace. The nation is in his debt.

— Richard H. Escobales, Jr.
Professor of Mathematics, Canisius College


I feel very fortunate to have known Izaak Wirszup. His warmth and exuberance for life were palpable. I met him spring, 1985 when the UCSMP held its first international conference, which he orchestrated. The event had his signature — full of energy, insights, thoughtful people from around the world, a great love of learning, and a strong focus on the importance of improving mathematics learning. Later when I would see him again during the following summers when I worked on the UCSMP books he would welcome me as if he had known me for years, concerned about my family, projects, and well being. He had a tremendous heart. I wept when I learned he had passed. I had understood for some time that he gave much to mathematics education — bringing international resources to the U.S. and building bridges around the world. Now, as I read his obituaries, I understand better how he tried to live so that the memory of his lost family could be honored. This is a deeply inspiring message.

Rheta Rubenstein
Professor, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
University of Michigan-Dearborn



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Last modified at 08:57 AM CST on Thursday, February 07, 2008

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