2019 Shilts/Leonard Teaching Award

Author: Judy Hygema

Dennis Snow

2019 Shilts/Leonard Teaching Award to Dennis Snow

Congratulations to Dennis Snow, Professor of Mathematics and the recipient of the 2019 Father James L. Shilts, C.S.C. and Gene Leonard Teaching Award. This award, bestowed annually on a faculty member in the College of Science, is named in honor of Father James Shilts, C.S.C., who taught at Notre Dame in the Department of Physics from 1961 until his death in 1982, and was endowed in 1984 by Dr. Eugene T. Leonard III in memory of his parents Dr. Eugene and Doris Leonard. Dr. Leonard was a member of the Science Advisory Council from 1976 until 1991. The award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching.

Dennis received his B.A. from Merrimack College and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Notre Dame. He was appointed Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Notre Dame in 1982 and has long been regarded as one of the Mathematics Department star teachers.

In calculus courses aimed at a broad audience as well as upper level undergraduate offerings aimed at math majors, Snow is known for his strong emphasis on concrete computations and examples, his high standards, and his generosity in helping students succeed in his classes. His class in Complex Variables, an upper level undergraduate offering, is one of the perennial favorites among electives for math majors. One of the hallmarks of the course is its success in engaging students on both the regular math majors track and the honors track. In addition to his classes, Dennis is one of the most prolific advisors of undergraduate math theses. He devotes himself to the success of all of his math students.

His students express universal appreciation for his clarity, his patience, his availability, and his unwavering passion for mathematics and for teaching. They uniformly say that he emphasized the “why” of the lesson and that he wanted his students to fully understand concepts. They comment on how much they learned and that they felt “confident in themselves that they could do math and calculus after taking his course.” One student indicated that Dennis Snow “is the reason I am passionate about mathematics. He is the reason I hope to eventually study upper level mathematics at graduate school.” And several others suggested that “everyone should take his courses because they challenge you to think and to better understand mathematical concepts.”