SYDNEY CROMWELL – News Writer
Mathematics professor David Foreman passed away after a long battle with cancer on Thursday, May 1. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Kawell, Computer Science)
Mathematics professor David Foreman died on Thursday, May 1 after an extended battle with cancer. Foreman had been part of the mathematics and computer science department since 1986.
Foreman is survived by his wife and his daughters Julie and Emily. His funeral is set for 2 p.m. today at Brookwood Baptist Church. Additionally, a Samford memorial will take place in Reid Chapel on Monday, May 12 at 3 p.m.
Students and professors have been leaving notes of remembrance on his office door in Ingalls Hall and sharing their favorite memories about Foreman.
Mathematics professor Jeffrey Powell recalled Foreman’s quick wit, which made staff meetings and classes a fun time.
“He had a really dry, great sense of humor,” said mathematics professor Jeffrey Powell.
“Students absolutely loved him. [They were] always going on about how funny he is and he just really made that connection with them in a way that’s really unique.”
“Anyone who has taken Dr. Foreman for a class knows of his humor. I wish I had written some of his classic jokes down,” said senior mathematics major Corey Fuller. “But more important than the humor was that he made me feel loved as a student and I knew I could stop by his office to just chat whenever I wanted to.”
Fuller said Foreman never failed to ask about his internship and offered help for classes whenever he could.
“I hope the Lord uses me to touch as many lives as he was able to touch,” Fuller said. “He never wanted to quit teaching. He knew of his disease and yet still pursued teaching his students until the end. I loved Dr. Foreman and I respected him as the selfless leader he was.”
Professor Bruce Atkinson, the chair of the mathematics and computer science department, remembered Foreman’s constant selflessness and ability to put others at ease.
“He was very kind and self-effacing. Whenever I would greet him in the hall he would always want to know what I was doing and how the family was. We would talk about that a while and then I would realize that he would never initiate anything about himself unless he was asked,” Atkinson said. “He lived his life by putting others first.”
Atkinson said that during the department’s annual awards picnic, Foreman always emceed the “math Pictionary” game.
“He loved picking the words or phrases, and was in his element in front of the crowd,” Atkinson said. “Last month we had the picnic while he was still ill, and we decided not to even attempt that game. No one could do it better.”
Junior mathematics major Gary Gao met Foreman during his Calculus 2 class. When he struggled with the class, Gao began spending extra time in Foreman’s office to work on math problems and share jokes. Foreman continued to help him with other math courses and talk about his future. Gao remembered one day, after missing a couple 8 a.m. math classes, Foreman took his phone and recorded his own voice as an alarm clock to make sure Gao got to class on time.
“I really enjoyed his classes a lot. I loved his classes because he explains everything so well and he’s always willing to stop and spend half an hour if someone has a problem. He’s a great person. We were really close after class,” Gao said. “Our relationship was beyond just professor and student.”
Only a few weeks before Foreman passed away, Gao had decided to delay his graduation in order to take his senior seminar with his favorite math professor.
“After hearing he died, I went to his office and stood in front of his door and wrote something on a sticky note. It said, “Dr. Foreman, you are the best,” Gao said. “I just stood there at his door and cried for a while.”
Mathematics professor Emily Hynds said Foreman was popular among students both for his sense of humor and his ability to explain challenging concepts. Since his death, Hynds has heard from former students who loved him even if they received a failing grade. Foreman won Samford’s John M. Buchanan Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2010 based on the nominations of his students.
“He’s the kind of professor that students don’t forget. So 20, 25 years later they still come back to see him, they still email him,” Hynds said. “Not even math majors, necessarily; some of these are students he had for one class, but he impacted them so much that he wanted to keep up with them.”
Foreman was also a source of advice for his fellow professors, as he had been in the department the longest.
“He gave great advice. He would know how to handle a situation,” Hynds said. “He was just everybody’s friend, mentor, confidant, joke factory.”
2013 mathematics alumnus Josh Brandl remembered the way Foreman’s office door was always open so he could greet students as they walked by. In classes, Brandl said Foreman struck the “perfect balance” between recognizing students’ current abilities and pushing them to grow.
“He had this habit of stopping midway through a problem and waiting for someone to finish up the explanation for him. At first I found it a little frustrating; I am not a very outspoken person, and he would literally not move until someone chimed in with some sort of response,” Brandl said. “After a while, though, we all picked up on what he was doing: he wanted us to think through the problems ourselves and to practice explaining our reasoning.”
When Brandl and fellow 2013 mathematics alumnus Evan Elmore graduated, their church, Brookwood Baptist, held a “Graduation Sunday” to celebrate the college graduates. Their own parents could not attend, so Foreman and his wife Elvia acted as their substitute parents for the day.
“I remember Evan and I being called to the stage, and then turning around and seeing the proud look on Dr. Foreman’s face when we were both up there,” Brandl said. “Seeing how proud he was made me feel like I had really accomplished something in my time at Samford.”