Rowan students and faculty pay tribute to the late Dr. Thomas Osler

Osler stands at a white board to teach students. - Photo via Ultrarunning History

Rowan professor Thomas “Tom” Osler passed away on March 26, 2023, at 82 years old — leaving behind a life full of teaching and running passion.

A mathematics professor for over 50 years, Osler was celebrated amongst his family, students and colleagues alike. He is survived by his two sons, Eric and William; two grandsons, Zachary and Gabriel; and a great-granddaughter Zoey. Osler had been married to his wife Kathy, an adjunct professor at Rowan as well as a Spanish teacher at Glassboro High School, for 48 years before she passed in November of 2016. 

“Dr. Osler was one of those rare professors who has influenced thousands of students,” said Vojislava Pophristic, the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics who worked alongside Olsen.

Osler began teaching at Rowan as an assistant professor in 1972, later he became a full-time professor in 1981. He had published over 150 academic papers throughout his career. In addition, he had given dozens of research presentations at various events and conferences over the years. Many of these papers are cited regularly in academic and mathematical work.

Subjects of his research expertise included fractional derivatives, complex variables and special functions. He was also well known in the math world for his work with formulas for pi, combining the formulas of Francois Viete and John Wallis

Abdul Hassen, Ph.D. and Hieu Nguyen are professors of mathematics who, like many others in the department, were mentored by Osler when they first came to the university. Hassen told the story of a young woman Osler was teaching whose mother and grandmother had also been taught by Osler. 

“I don’t think anybody at Rowan will have three generations. So that’s his legacy in terms of teaching. He was, for us, the history itself,” Hassen said. 

In 1992, Osler co-founded what was then known as the Rowan Math-Physics Seminar, now called the Mathematics Colloquium. 

Osler also won many awards, including the Gary Hunter Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2008, the Editorial Excellence Award from the journal “Mathematics and Computer Education” and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the NJ section of the Mathematical Association of America in 2009. 

“His guidance was valuable for our growth, in terms of getting tenure and getting promotion in and being the standard for growing, for allowing us to help the department,” Nguyen said. 

Due to his prolific work in the field of mathematics, Rowan held a two-day conference to honor his 70th birthday in 2010 called Oslerfest.

Nguyen, who has taken over teaching Osler’s favorite course “History of Math,” will be holding “Student Osler Fest” in honor of the late professor. Students will be asked to give presentations based on one of Osler’s papers or works. 

Osler was also a prolific runner and had run competitively for 62 years, writing three books on the topic along the way. He won a variety of races, including three national championships and the 1965 Philadelphia Marathon. He ran in more than 2000 races over his lifetime. In 1976, he performed a 24-hour run and in 1980 was inducted into the Road Runners Club of America Hall of Fame, of which he was once the elected secretary. 

“Some words I would use to describe Dr. Osler if people asked me what he was like would be dedication. He taught for Rowan for over 50 years,” Nguyen said. “He was also dedicated to running… longevity, it’s very rare that you have someone doing things for that long, and to do it with such passion. So that’s another word that I would use to describe him: passionate and very generous with his time.”

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