Skip to Main Content

Dr. Charles Coppin Scholarship in Mathematics

Anonymous Donors Endow Math Scholarship, Honor Retired Professor

Date published: Oct. 2, 2019

To the ceremony celebrating the scholarship endowed and named in this honor, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Charles Coppin, Ph.D., brought with him a “learning aid”: the plaque the Mathematics Department had given him on his 60th birthday, upon which is engraved Coppin’s favorite poem, “Simply Assisting God” by Piet Hein:

Dr. Coppin“I am a humble artist
moulding my earthly clod,
adding my labor to nature’s,
simply assisting God.

“Not that my effort is needed;
yet somehow, I understand,
my maker has willed it that I too should have
unmoulded clay in my hand.”

On the afternoon of Sept. 26, several members of the university community gathered to celebrate the endowment of the Dr. Charles Coppin Scholarship in Mathematics, which is named in honor of the longtime department chair and professor of mathematics and will benefit current and future mathematics majors at UD. UD alumni, especially those who were students of Coppin, are invited to contribute to this endowed scholarship with gifts of their own.

“It is a distinct pleasure to announce this scholarship in honor of Dr. Coppin,” said Provost Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D., as he welcomed to the ceremony Coppin and his wife, Alaine Fay, mathematics faculty, and other attendees. “I commend this emphasis on scholarship support, which also reflects our outstanding faculty. Dr. Coppin, your name has been invoked for lots of good things. Your methodology is at the heart of the Mathematics Department and has shaped both the department and the university.”

Dr. AndrewsAssociate Dean of Constantin College and Associate Professor of Mathematics David Andrews, Ph.D., BS ’90, spoke specifically of the gamma function. He recalled how Coppin called him into his office after Andrews took his comprehensive exam his senior year at UD; Andrews had missed a question on the gamma function, and Coppin talked him through it and permitted him to try again, which enabled Andrews to graduate as intended. “We begin and end with the gamma function,” explained Andrews. “It comes up naturally; it’s a beautiful relationship.”

“Your kindness and generosity to your students were a hallmark of the legacy you left the Math Department,” Andrews told Coppin. “Other parts of this legacy are your love of math, the chaos we studied together; there are all of these wonderful aspects of math — it’s such a rich field — and you’re interested in them all.”

“The donors thought of you specifically,” added Andrews. “Your legacy and influence must be measured in super-exponential form because of all the lives you’ve touched.”

“My life has been very blessed,” said Coppin. “God has really blessed me as I moved along in life, putting it in my mind that teaching was what I should do. I hope that these donors will be blessed, and that each student who receives this scholarship will be blessed.”

He expressed his gratitude for his wife, Alaine Fay, who has been very much a part of his career, as his proofreader and coauthor in life.

“In college, we sat down at a library table and started talking,” he said. “And we’re still talking.”

“It’s an encouragement,” said Alaine Fay Coppin of the scholarship.

“I hope God will keep moulding mathematicians at UD, creating faculty who will do the moulding,” added Coppin. 

Sybil and Alaine Fay“Dr. Coppin was famous for helping us understand how students needed to learn the fundamentals of mathematical thinking in depth,” said retired University Historian Sybil Novinski, also a former UD academic dean and registrar. “It’s deeply related to art and logic; math and art go together. He taught me a great deal as an administrator; he was such a gutsy teacher.”

“We have really promising students, but we haven’t really had scholarships available for them,” said Assistant Professor of Mathematics John Osoinach, Ph.D. “This is perfect.”

“This scholarship is good for the students, and it’s also a testament to the quality of the teaching we have here,” said Sanford. “We have a distinctive approach to mathematics at UD that focuses on teaching students to think.”

“The University of Dallas is eternally grateful to the anonymous donors who endowed this scholarship,” said Vice President for University Advancement Jason Wu Trujillo. “While their identities are hidden, the impact of their generosity will be apparent to future generations of UD mathematics students. It is the sincere hope of the donors that others, especially UD mathematics alumni, will contribute to this endowed scholarship and honor the influence Dr. Coppin has had on their lives.”  

Coppin left everyone with a final nugget of wisdom, one he used with both students and colleagues, found in another poem by Piet Hein: “T. T. T.,” which stands for “Things Take Time.”

“Put up in a place
where it’s easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
T.T. T.

“When you feel how depressingly 
slowly you climb,
it’s well to remember that
Things Take Time.”

Please contact Kris Muñoz Vetter, Vice President for Advancement, at or 972-721-5149 for more information or to make a contribution to the scholarship.