Madison's experience at Iowa
By Sara Langenberg
Iowa City PressCitizen
For years, University of Iowa professor Eugene Madison thought he just looked young.
Textbook salesmen would stop in his office to make their pitch, and more often than not, they would direct inquiries at some graduate or undergraduate student sitting next to Madison's desk instead of the professor himself.
Eventually, Madison's hairline receded, his beard grew gray, and the excuse of youth no longer made sense.
Madison was one of just three AfricanAmerican professors on campus when he joined the teaching ranks of the UI mathematics department in 1966. Few people expected to meet a UI instructor who wasn't white in those days, he said.
It wasn't Madison's first brush with being a minority in a predominantly white academic setting, though.
Less than a decade earlier, shortly after he married his wife, Ethel, who now runs a small Iowa City agency to advocate for people with disabilities, he also found himself alone among a sea of white instructors.
The Memphis, Tenn., native had received his undergraduate degree at a predominantly black college in Memphis, but he went to Michigan State University to earn his master's degree in 1956.
"It was something of a shock in the late 1950s, having had virtually no contact with the white world until I was in graduate school," he said.
"I can remember my first day at a TA meeting," he said. "I was asked by the department chair to see him after the meeting. He welcomed me and said he was impressed by my grades. He said he had been there 14 years and during that time, an African American had not enrolled in the graduate department in math.
"He was concerned I'd be teaching students who had not had a black instructor before but he was one of the good guys. He said he scheduled my class to meet next to his office in case I ever needed him."
The experience didn't shock Madison. "Back in those days, it was a way of life for everybody," Madison said.
These days, some 35 years later, Madison still finds himself in a minority on the UI campus. But he and others are working to change that.
He heads the math department's committee to recruit and retain Hispanic and AfricanAmerican students.
Once a week, he and a colleague meet with minority students in the math department to help them with whatever concepts they find difficult.
"We've been trying to change the culture," he said. "We were not realizing that having an opendoor policy wasn't enough. You have to be proactive. Go up to them and say, 'Hey, let's go to lunch and talk about things.' And the students are doing better."
In five years, the numbers have skyrocketed, he added.
"We've gone from having almost no minorities, specifically Hispanics and AfricanAmericans, to them making up 27 percent of the student population," he said.
The future, Madison said, includes finishing a book on mathematical logic and spending time with his family.
He showed a strong interest and ability for math at an early age, solving puzzles and math problems with his father, then accepting a teacher's bribe of quarters for correct answers in high school. His senior year, he and a few buddies skipped their lunch hour to learn trigonometry because it wasn't normally part of the curriculum.
"That paid off when I got to college," he said.
But Madison's children did not follow in those footsteps. His son is a musician, one daughter an audiologist and another daughter an assistant dance professor in Dallas.
"If they had chosen to become mathematicians, I would have been pleased, but I didn't set a goal," he said.
"I think subconsciously we don't want our own kids to be mathematicians. As E. Landau, a German mathematician of the early 20th century, said: 'We mathematicians are all a little bit crazy.' "
RESEARCH
Dr. Eugene W. Madison publishes in Mathematical Logic.
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

Eugene Madison (with B. ZimmermannHuisgen) Combinatorial and recursive aspects of the automorphism group of the countable atomless Boolean algebra, J. Symbolic Logic 51 (1986), 292301.

Eugene W. Madison On Boolean algebras and their recursive completions, Z. Math. Logik Grundlag. Math. 31 (1985), 481486.

Eugene W. Madison The existence of countable totally nonconstructive extensions of the countable atomless Boolean algebra, J. Symbolic Logic 48 (1983), 167170.

Eugene W. Madison A hierarchy of regular open sets of the Cantor space, Acta Math. Acad. Sci. Hungar. 40 (1982), 139145.

Eugene W. Madison (with G. C. Nelson) Some examples of constructive and nonconstructive extensions of the countable atomless Boolean algebra, J. London Math. Soc. 11 (1975), 325336.

Eugene W. Madison (with Donald A. Alton) Computability of Boolean algebras and their extensions, Ann. Math. Logic 6(1973/74), 95128.

Eugene W. Madison Real fields with characterization of the natural numbers, Notre Dame J. Formal Logic 13 (1972), 211218.

Eugene W. Madison Some remarks on computable (nonArchimedean) ordered fields, J. London Math. Soc. 4 (1971), 304308.

Eugene W. Madison A note on computable real fields, J. Symbolic Logic 35 (1970), 239241.

Eugene W. Madison Computable algebraic structures and nonstandard arithmetic, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 130 (1968), 3854.
