MARQUETTE, Mich.— Retired Northern Michigan University professor John Kiltinen and his wife, Pauline, recently established the Kiltinen Mathematics and Computer Science Idea Endowment with a $100,000 pledge. But because newly established endowments take time to achieve earnings that can be awarded, the couple also gave a $10,000 expendable gift to begin funding projects this semester and be distributed evenly over five years.

The endowment will support initiatives of the NMU mathematics and computer science department. Emphasis will be given to new programs that might not otherwise be considered because they are not funded through traditional sources.

“I don’t want to see good ideas killed before they can be fleshed out because there aren’t existing funds to support them,” said John Kiltinen. “The main objective is to help enrich the experience for Northern students. Preference will be given to projects that will give them learning opportunities beyond the classroom.”

NMU is hosting the sectional meeting of the Mathematical Association of America in October. The first installment of the $10,000 gift will cover expenses for three keynote speakers: Igor Kriz of the University of Michigan, who in addition to his talk will present an organ recital featuring a world-premiere composition; and Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor, co-authors of Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity. Their book compares French mathematicians of the early 20th centry, whose rational and secular worldview made them doubt the legitimacy of infinite sets, with their Russian counterparts, particularly those who subscribed to a religious doctrine known as “name worshipping” and believed that humans had absolute freedom to invent mathematical objects.

“We wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear about the authors’ research without financial support from the Kiltinens,” saidJ.D. Phillips, head of the NMU Mathematics and Computer Science department. “Their endowment is a very generous pledge that will enable us to pursue worthy projects that might otherwise slip through the cracks. John’s emphasis is on students and teaching. I like the fact he wants the criteria to remain flexible to promote the most creative use of funds.”

The mathematics and computer science department will devise endowment guidelines and make all funding decisions. Award amounts and numbers will vary based upon the earnings available and the number of appropriate proposals.

A Marquette native and NMU alumnus, John Kiltinen was a member of Northern’s faculty from 1971-2007. He remains connected to the university in retirement, serving on the department’s colloquium committee and as faculty adviser for the NMU Finn Club. Kiltinen said he also keeps busy with personal projects related to his Finnish heritage and to his combined interests in music and mathematics.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director