Lowell Beineke’s career has been about asking questions and finding answers.
He has been a professor in IPFW’s Department of Mathematical Sciences for more than 50 years, and what he’s found is that success is about finding the right balance between all the things you want to do.
"It all takes time and finding a balance," Beineke said. "That was one of the attractions for me when I came to IPFW – in addition to being a new place to teach – is that when I interviewed here, I was told there would be a balance between teaching and research.
"I didn’t feel I wanted to be at one of the main research universities, nor did I want to be at a place that didn’t invest in the expansion of knowledge. IPFW has been a good place for both of these."
Beineke, 75, attended Monmouth High School in Decatur before getting an undergraduate degree from Purdue, then a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
After teaching a summer course at Indiana University’s extension in downtown Fort Wayne in 1964, he joined the 1-year-old IPFW and has been there as the university has grown.
"It’s been great working here," he said. "In fact, it being a new place was one of the attractions to me coming here in the first place. I thought I could have an impact at a new institution, and I’ve seen it grow and develop."
While he’s well-known for his graph theories and combinatorics and has co-authored nine books, he takes great pride in having been able to reach students. Even how they study and how they apply mathematics has changed through the years, he said.
"I have gone with what’s been successful," he said. "Without sounding self-centered, I think students have appreciated it. I’ve required almost daily homework for my daily classes. And those at the graduate level have gotten it weekly. They can use the computer and Internet, and that has changed through the years, but the classroom part is the same for me – and a lot of other faculty – as it’s always been."
Beineke has been honored many times throughout his career for his mathematical and teaching skills. The Mathematical Association of America has given him a Distinguished Teaching Award, a Distinguished Service Award and a Certificate of Meritorious Service.
"I found that award for Meritorious Service very rewarding because it was for teaching more than for the research," Beineke said.
IPFW named an award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts and Sciences after Beineke.
As someone who had an interest in mathematics throughout his life, it’s been a successful career for Beineke.
"I just always liked mathematics and found I was quite good at it," he said. "I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher because it can enable you to do so much."
IPFW’s campus has grown throughout Beineke’s time at the school, but he doesn’t perceive the school as being all that different from the day he began. His goals are the same as they were in 1965, he said.
"Our student body is very similar," he said. "Yes, international students and Division I student-athletes have had an impact on the campus. The (growth of) halls and residences have had some impact, but not as much as some people expected. I know the students who have been involved in some of the organizations I’ve been involved in, a lot (have) been coming from other states, and that has been a bit of a change."
Beineke didn’t think he’d be at IPFW this long – "partly because there was a mandatory retirement age," he said – but he’s ecstatic to have become a fixture at the school.
Even as technology has changed, making it easier for students of all ages to find the answers to the problems, he hasn’t seen the enthusiasm for mathematics wane.
But he sees obstacles for math students at all levels.
"Higher education across the country is having troubles with funding," he said. "This isn’t true just in Indiana, but it is of course an issue in Indiana with public education. IPFW hasn’t been funded on the other level with the other regional campuses. That may change with our move to be designated as a metropolitan university."
Part of the reason Beineke chose to teach at Purdue was for the opportunity to "repay" that school for giving him his undergraduate degree. He’s certainly accomplished that goal.