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Passing of David J. McGuinness, 30-year faculty member

November 13, 2020

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Dr. David J. McGuiness, a mathematics and computer science professor from 1968 to 1998, passed away on October 30 at age 80. Dr. McGuinness is remembered by his departmental colleagues as a supportive mentor and innovative teacher, and as the architect of the computer science major.

David J. McGuinness was born on May 15, 1940 in Providence, Rhode Island, to Della and Joseph McGuinness. He grew up in Pascoag, Rhode Island, and received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts and his master’s and doctoral degrees, also in mathematics, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

After completing his graduate studies, Dr. McGuinness was offered a faculty position in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Maryland at College Park. This became a life-altering experience for him and for several of his students.

Gallaudet professor emeritus Harvey C. Goodstein, ’65, recalls: “In 1966, I decided to go to the University of Maryland to take advanced mathematics courses in preparation for graduate studies. I had Dr. McGuinness as my professor in an advanced calculus course. This was long before the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thus, I often made appointments with Dr. McGuinness to have him clarify the things he taught in class. Fortunately, I found him willing to meet with me periodically and communicate with me via paper and pen.

“During our one-on-one meetings, we would occasionally talk about other things. He became intrigued about the mission of Gallaudet College and asked me questions about the mathematics department here at Gallaudet. He eventually applied for a position at Gallaudet, and I readily accepted his request to serve as one of his references. He was hired in 1968, and I became his colleague in 1970.”

Retired professors Herbert G. Mapes, ’67 & G-’69, and Fat C. Lam, ’71, described similar experiences. Wrote Professor Mapes, who took classes under Dr. McGuinness at both Maryland and Gallaudet, “Dr. McGuinness handed out copies of his planned lectures at the beginning of each class. This enabled us, as deaf students, to cover much more ground, and leveled the playing field for all students, deaf and hearing.” Dr. Lam wrote, “Dr. McGuinness obtained a grant to pay for me to take a self-paced course in topology under him the summer after my graduation, to better prepare me for graduate studies. I owe my success to him.”

Dr. Goodstein added, “It was a joy having Dave as a colleague during some 25-plus years in the math department. He often taught special topics courses in mathematics that were never taught previously, in order to keep up with new trends in the discipline.” Professor Mapes adds, “Upon his arrival in 1968, Dr. McGuiness immediately began to modernize our course offerings. He was instrumental in the department’s bringing in many new faculty members, several with doctoral degrees. He also created a number of tracks for our majors. The computer mathematics track later became a stand-alone computer science major, in accordance with the recommendations for the Association for Computing Machinery.”

Dr. McGuinness facilitated internship opportunities for Gallaudet students at IBM, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and other sites, and established a visiting professors program that brought in several deaf and hearing educators for a semester or a year.

“Once you get to know Dave, you would find him to be personable with a dry sense of humor,” wrote Dr. Goodstein. “For example, he once joked that his favorite sport was fishing because he could put his fishing pole in the ground and read math books.”

Dr. McGuinness led planning for the Merrill Learning Center, and worked closely with university administrators on planning and budgeting. “He was an important player in Gallaudet’s growth,” wrote Professor Mapes.

According to Dr. McGuinness’s family, “[Dave] sincerely and shyly hoped to energize and empower every student to master the mysteries of sine and cosine, planes and proofs.” After family and his work, his great loves were travel, food, music, and electronics. He enjoyed planning trips abroad and then savoring new experiences, cultures, and cuisines.

Dr. McGuinness is survived by his wife of 55 years, Ann Morrissey McGuinness; a son, Michael; and a daughter, Christine. Contributions in his honor may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

13 November 2020

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