Family of influential math educator Lois Knowles announces scholarship

Friday, November 11, 2011 | 4:26 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — When Veralee Hardin worked at MU's College of Education during the 1970s, a young boy struggling academically approached her and said: "I can read, but I can't math."

She never told her colleague, math aficionado Lois Knowles. Knowles loved math, something the language-loving Hardin struggled with.Despite their difference in interests, they were close confidants.

Almost 30 people, including Hardin and other colleagues, gathered at Townsend Hall on Friday morning to share stories, honor Knowles' legacy in math education and unveil a plaque celebrating her history and influence. Knowles died in 1990.

Dan Clay, dean of the College of Education, opened the ceremony with remarks about Knowles' character and her commitment to her students. He then introduced Knowles' nephew, Bob McFarland, and his wife, Barbara, to announce the creation of a scholarship in honor of Knowles. Friday's announcement of the Dr. Lois Knowles Math Education Scholarship brings the McFarlands' total donation to the college to $210,000. The couple also funded the Dr. Lois Knowles Endowed Faculty Fellowship, which was awarded in 2006.

The latest scholarship funds — for $100,000 — will be awarded to undergraduate or graduate students pursuing math education.

Knowles worked for the College of Education for 37 years. During that time, she inspired students and colleagues with her commitment and motivation to teaching and propelling the status of women in higher education.

In 1961, Knowles co-authored an innovative math textbook, "Seeing Through Arithmetic." She was the first female full professor in the College of Educationand was awarded the MU Distinguished Faculty Award in 1968.

The gathered family members, friends and colleagues remembered her today for more than her academic influence, but also for her wise, soft-spoken manner that commanded respect.

"She believed everyone should choose for themselves," Hardin said. "Everyone should choose to do what they enjoy."

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