20 Questions: A sketch of Centre associate professor of math Alex McAllister

RELEASED: February 7, 2008

DANVILLE, KY—1. Position/title: Associate Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Mathematics Program

2. Hometown: My birth town is Corvallis, Ore., but I mostly grew up in Leetown, W.Va., a "three-stop-sign" town in the eastern panhandle not far from Harpers Ferry.

3. Career highlight: I'm not sure I have one in particular… I think of it more as a journey with lots of highlights.

4. Favorite College Course: Logic. I love logic! I took a 300-level course in logic as a freshman in college and fell in love with the stuff. There are so many things you can do with logic—both in abstract thinking and in practical applications. And logic is full of these intriguing puzzles that tell us so much about ourselves.

5. Recent Publication or Other Professional Project: I'm in the middle of working on the publication of "A Survey of Advanced Mathematics: A Transition Course with Oxford University Press." This textbook supports our sophomore level Foundations course, providing a transition experience from lower-level, computationally intensive courses to upper-level, theoretical courses—and, as the title suggests, we survey lots of fun, amazing mathematical insights along the way.

6. Family details: I have one wife, three kids and two dogs. My wife Julie has degrees in engineering and theology and more recently has developed an interest in making greeting cards and journals. My oldest child is Benjamin; he enjoys soccer, riding bikes and dueling with light sabers, or whatever stick happens to be handy. My second child is Daniel; he enjoys soccer, too, prefers his scooter to his bike and is often on the other end of those light saber duels. My third child is Ella; she loves Scooby Doo and princesses and is intent on doing everything for herself. All three of them are left-handed. Our dogs BJ and Bridget were both strays at one time but seem to enjoy living with us now.

7. Hobbies: This past year my wife and I bought a 100-year-old, somewhat dilapidated old house with lots of potential—that is, work! In addition to developing some fantastic skills with a crowbar while gutting the house, I'm learning about electricity, plumbing, insulation, drywall and paint. There really are an amazing number of layers to a house! I also love to coach my kids' soccer teams, grow flowers and play guitar.

8. Most Memorable Experience of Your Education: In sixth grade I finished a science test early. I thought about double-checking my work, but decided to just turn it in right away. I earned a C because of some silly errors that I believed I would have caught if I'd checked things over—and so I started looking back over all my old work.

9. Prized possession: Since having children I've become less attached to possessions in some ways—things seem to break and/or wear out much more quickly now, and things aren't nearly so as important as the people I share my life with. I guess I should point to something: for my work on the house, I prize my crowbar and my power nailer.

10. Favorite book: "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery. I laughed, I cried – it's fantastic!

11. Memorable trip/vacation: In 2002 my wife and I went to Ireland. It's a beautiful country and we had a great time—especially visiting the Aran Islands and hanging out in the pubs in Doolin. In 2004, we went back with Ben and Danny. They still talk about wandering around castles, visiting churches and the sheep that seem to be everywhere.

12. Favorite movie: "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "My Cousin Vinny"

13. Favorite album: I've become a big fan of Irish and Scottish music—Danu, Kila, Lunasa, McKennitt, Runrig and Solas are some of my favorites groups/artists.

14. Favorite artist of any type: So, I've already covered books, movies and music. My favorite visual artist is probably M.C. Escher. His art expresses these amazing mathematical insights and puzzles.

15. Attitude Toward Technology: It's good stuff—the interesting question is trying to figure out what's the best technology to use when. Sometimes it's a piece of chalk writing on a chalkboard, sometimes it's the virtual image projected on the screen.

16. Person you most admire: My wife, Julie

17. Living figure you'd most like to meet: Either Jerry Mander, an author who has written some interesting books on technology and the environment, or John Michael Talbot, an amazing musician and guitarist whose music I really enjoy.

18. Historical figure you'd most like to meet: Jesus of Nazareth. My faith is very important to me, and I think it'd be pretty interesting to talk with Jesus over a cup of tea.

19. What would you be doing if you weren't teaching at Centre: Either teaching math somewhere else, or rebuilding an old house somewhere in Ireland

20. Describe yourself in three words: The three great loves of my life are: faith, family and math.

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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://archive.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/

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