Campus Closeup: Don Faust
Don’t believe Don Faust (Mathematics and Computer Science) when he claims that he is, “a very ordinary, average kind of guy.” Faust is not your average mathematician. Not only is he fluent in Malay, he is also on a quest for the truth. “I’m interested in the structure of knowledge, and have been searching for what ‘truth’ is in terms of logic and math.”
Faust is on a teaching assignment in Vienna, Austria, for the winter semester.
Originally from Syracuse, N.Y., he received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from State University of New York in 1966. After a master’s degree from the University of Kansas in ’68, Faust joined the United States Peace Corps, which proved to be one of the most important experiences of his life.
“I went to Malaysia to teach science and math, and have probably spent a third of my life living there because I love it so much. Part of understanding knowledge is observing how other people comprehend things, and living with other cultures has provided me with an excellent opportunity to do that.”
Faust volleyed between teaching at NMU and teaching in Malaysia from 1979 until 1997. When asked what he’s learned from so much teaching experience, he said, “Every day is a learning experience if you’re a real teacher. Every day I learn more about how people learn and understand, and I’ve realized that students are greatly underestimated. Teachers often talk down to them and society tends to dumb things down for them, but they don’t need that. They need to be treated like adults, and I try to do that in my classrooms.”
Outside of teaching, Faust enjoys the outdoors. “But I don’t like to shoot things. I enjoy thinking and writing, even in the winter. I don’t mind sitting in the snow.” He also works out at least three times a week. But unlike most people, he considers his job to be his major hobby. “When I was younger, my father told me to never work or get a job for the sole purpose of earning money. He told me to do something that I love to do, and this is what I love: teaching, math, and getting to live in other places of the world.”
Faust’s favorite thing about NMU is its laid-back atmosphere. “This is a very nice university. The faculty are very competent and relaxed, and there’s no big pressure for professors to publish things like there is at other universities. Because of that, I can take the time to choose my own topic to research and write about, and do so in my own time.” He has written several essays about math and science, and is starting to branch out into nontechnical publications.
Searching for the truth has taken Faust all over the world and back again for decades. But what has he discovered after so many years? “I haven’t discovered any truth yet—to anything. But I’ll keep looking, and I’ll let you know.”
Campus Closeup profiles individual employees, offering a glimpse of their professional responsibilities and personal interests.