Martha Abell’s first introduction to Georgia Southern was supposed to be the “Hugo Bowl,” the 1989 game played under the threat of impending landfall from Hurricane Hugo. Abell had just started her new job as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, when she received an invitation from some fellow coworkers to join them in Paulson Stadium. “I decided to stay at home instead,” she said, glad to have missed four inches of rain that drenched other fans that day.
Even though Abell escaped the inclement conditions, she encountered plenty of other intense weather during the rest of the season. “I’ve experienced the extreme heat, hail, snow and sleet of the games,” she laughed, and her love of Eagle athletics has spilled over into the classroom as well.
Through the years, Abell has taught several athletes, including football players, and even one baseball player who competed in the College World Series. “I have fun interacting with the athletes because they work hard,” she said, talking about the extra effort athletes have to make when they are juggling strenuous academic and athletic schedules.
Abell has found herself in the same position as well, often juggling several important University responsibilities with her teaching schedule, and she exemplifies True Blue dedication in every aspect of her job, as chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences.
During her employment at Georgia Southern, Abell has dedicated countless hours to curriculum advancement and to individual academic programs, serving as the director for the University’s Honors Programs for three years. Perhaps one of the most significant and labor intensive accomplishments of her career was working as a faculty assistant in the Provost’s office during the University’s conversion from the quarter system to the semester system. During the yearlong process, Abell said that every degree program in the University system had to be recreated. “We had to write a new core curriculum, and it was very challenging, converting the credit hours from quarters to semesters. All of the abbreviations for departmental areas and the course numbers had to be changed. I got this job because of my math background!” she said.
The Columbus, Ga., native’s interest and skills in mathematics were encouraged by her mother, a teacher. “I used to tutor my neighbors in math,” she revealed. After graduating from Mercer University, Abell had plans to enter dental school at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) but instead decided to return to the field of math. She entered the Georgia Institute of Technology, earning a masters and doctorate degree in the subject.
Abell has published numerous articles and various books as well as collaborating with fellow professor Jim Braselton to publish a series of reference books for students and faculty called Mathematica by Example, now in its fourth edition. Georgia Southern recognized her outstanding accomplishments in the field by presenting her with the Award for Excellence in Scholarship.
Just as Abell was encouraged to pursue math as youngster, she also promotes learning opportunities for other young students by participating in the University- sponsored Eagle Math-a-Mania. The spring event is designed for students in grades K-5 as a fun way to practice for the annual Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT).