Professor Emeritus Tom McCready, who served the mathematics department for 43 years, passed away October 19. He was 81.
Born September 1, 1940, in Pueblo, Colorado, he graduated from Sonora Union High School and enrolled at University of California, Berkeley. There he earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1962 and received the University Medal, which is awarded annually to the most distinguished graduating senior. He went on to complete his PhD in mathematics from Stanford University in 1968.
He was hired to teach in the mathematics department at Chico State College that same year, and after several years teaching, he served as department chair from 1970–73 and then again from 1985–93. He taught courses in probability and statistics as well as the four-semester sequence of courses of mathematics for elementary school teachers, which was his favorite.
“Tom was a true gentleman and great educator, and always looking out for the interests of students, faculty, and the greater good of the department and University,” said Rick Ford, professor emeritus and former department chair. “I recall and greatly appreciated the regular lunches that we shared together my first few years here. He was instrumental helping new faculty establish that sense of belonging that we all need. Tom was a mentor who encouraged me every step of the way and I will always remember his kindness and grace.”
A big believer in the importance of general education, he worked with his department and the Department of Geosciences to develop five courses for inclusion in various Upper Division Themes and taught four of those courses regularly until he entered the early retirement program in 2001. Yet, teaching remained a source of great joy for him, and he remained a presence in Chico State classrooms until 2011, including serving as the theme coordinator for American Identities and Cultures. He also taught for many years at Butte College.
“He was, in my mind, the ideal academic administrator, professor, and scholar,” said Abe Baily, retired dean of students. “No matter who you were, he would genuinely listen and be engaged. His knowledge was so broad and deep that he could talk with anybody about anything and make you feel good about who you were and celebrate whatever you had to offer. He did that with students, clerks, parents, and any position at the University, from the beginning groundskeeper up to the president.”
Although McCready was exceptionally brilliant, he was also deeply humble, curious, and quick to collaborate and bring people together, Baily said. It was those traits that made him such a wonderful leader and colleague.
In retirement, McCready continued mentoring department chairs and attending lectures, colloquia, and special events. He also volunteered math tutoring with junior high and high school students. And he also delighted in spending time with his wife, Kathy, children, and grandchildren.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy; son David, daughter Coralie; sister Cathie; brother Mike; and numerous grandchildren.
Services will be held November 6 at 11 a.m. at Newton-Bracewell Funeral Home. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Sierra Club.
The University flag will be lowered Wednesday, November 3, in his memory.