October 13, 2010

In Memoriam: Math Professor Mark Dorio

Students and faculty alike are remembering Math Professor Mark Dorio, who died recently after a long illness. Professor Dorio was always available to assist students, and even the hospital nurses who cared for him during his illness said they remembered how much he helped them so they could succeed in their classes. In Professor Dorio's memory, see below for a reprint of an article he was asked to write a few years ago answering the question: Why I Teach.

"In 1965, I got out of the Army and went to work for Xerox as a copier repairman. I also began taking night classes at Pierce College in California's San Fernando Valley. I thought maybe I wanted to be an engineer. Working for Xerox gave me access to the copy centers of several large companies like Rocketdyne, Atomics International, Teledyne, Hughes, and Litton. I was curious and, whenever I had an appropriate opportunity, I asked people about their jobs. Gradually, I came to realize that a career in engineering was not what I really desired. So then, I didn't know what I wanted to do.

"About October 1966, I was in Professor Slattery's Trigonometry class. I was watching Professor Slattery at the board working through some trigonometric problem when it struck me that Professor Slattery truly enjoyed his work. He was good at what he did. He was well liked by his students. He seemed to find his work meaningful and rewarding. He appeared to be happy. I liked math and I began to think of myself someday being a college math teacher. I had never before thought of college teaching as a possible career. I changed my major to mathematics and I went through the calculus sequence with Professor Luke. Professor Luke was an excellent teacher and, like Professor Slattery, he was dedicated to the success of his students. I became more and more convinced that what I wanted was Professor Luke's job.

"Professor Luke encouraged me to pursue teaching and to plan on getting my master's degree at his alma mater, UCLA. And, eventually I did. But it was a long difficult road - especially at UCLA. It was hard to satisfy both Xerox and UCLA at the same time. Finally, in 1982, I completed my master's degree. In 1983, I was promoted at Xerox and began five years as a technical instructor at the Xerox Los Angeles Training Center. I taught Xerography and various copy machine courses. I very much enjoyed my time teaching at the training center.

"In 1984, I began teaching evening math courses at Los Angeles Valley College. My experience at LAVC confirmed all that I had anticipated. The other instructors were a pleasure to work with. My interactions with my students gave me a sense of doing useful, meaningful work. My job at LAVC did turn out to be as gratifying and rewarding as I had expected. By then, I was impressed with the beauty of mathematics. And, this was a job that required doing mathematics.

"In 1989, I saw the job posting for a mathematics teaching position at WNC. Helping students at Xerox was rewarding and I was in the early process of being promoted to a teaching position at the Xerox International Training Center in Leesburg, Virginia. Still, since mathematics was not an essential part of any teaching position at Xerox, I could not resist applying for the position at WNC. So, after 24 years at Xerox, I left. I took a 34 percent cut in pay, moved my family to Carson City, and joined the faculty at WNC.

"Whatever one is doing today is for the most part simply that which one was doing yesterday. But, on rare occasions, decisions are made that actually change one's life. Leaving Xerox was one of those occasions. I came to WNC to teach mathematics because this job entailed both using mathematics and helping students.

"Today, my office at WNC is across from the Academic Skills Center. My door is usually open. Often, a student or even a tutor from the ASC will come to my office for an explanation or a solution. I am happy to help. It's always a pleasure to do whatever I can to reduce the stress and frustration that so often accompany some students' mathematical experiences. So, why do I teach? The real question is: why did I decide to come to teach mathematics back in 1989? The answer is that teaching college mathematics and helping students learn college mathematics is an occupation that gives my life greater satisfaction, purpose, and pleasure."

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