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Professor Cornelia Strong (1877–1955)

From: Elizabeth Ann Bowles, 1967. A Good Beginning: The First Four Decades of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

A word often used by former students to describe Miss Strong was “brilliant.” A native of South Carolina and the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, she received her early education at the Agnes Scott Institute. In 1903 she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell, where she was elected to membership in Sigma Xi. Professor John Henry Tanner was so impressed by her work that he later requested that she be given a leave of absence to return to Cornell to help him write a high school algebra book. Her quest for knowledge carried her to universities across the country, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, California, Colorado, and Wisconsin, and in 1931 she received her Master of Arts degree from the University of Michigan. From 1905 to 1948 she was a member of the mathematics faculty at the Normal in Greensboro and one of the most valued members of the entire faculty. One of the achievements of which she was most proud was the introduction of astronomy to the curriculum in 1931.

From 1913 to 1937 Miss Strong was chairman of the Committee on Advanced Standing, a truly difficult task which concerned the many alumnae who returned to earn standard degrees after the college had been accredited. It was the task of her committee to evaluate the academic records of these students to determine how much work would be necessary to meet degree requirements. She also served on the Loan Committee, the Curriculum Committee, and the Consolidated University Administrative Council.

As a teacher, she was known for her “thoroughness, her insistence upon accuracy, her infinite patience. Her … students … came to understand and to apply logic in their reasoning … and (at least some of them) experienced … the rare moments in their lives when the wonder and beauty of the mathematical universe flashed upon their sight.”

© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021