Thursday March 15, 2018

Ben Rice Memorial Scholarship

A University of Dayton professor who taught mathematics for nearly four decades is being remembered with a new scholarship in his name that will continue his legacy at the University for many years to come.

Bernard “Ben” Rice, professor emeritus of mathematics, died Dec. 6, 2017, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He became an instructor at the University in 1960 and retired in 1998, having been named Professor of the Year in both 1972 and 1978.

The Ben Rice Scholarship was established by his four surviving sons and his friend and former colleague, Jerry Strange, professor emeritus of mathematics. The scholarship will provide support for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need, with a preference for mathematics majors.

“Ben loved mathematics, and he loved UD, so it is fitting that a scholarship in his name benefits mathematics majors,” said Wiebke Diestelkamp, professor and department of mathematics chair.

Alumnus Rob Rice ’90, the fourth of Ben’s five sons, said the scholarship was a fitting remembrance, given how intertwined his father’s life was with the University. All of Ben’s sons and his late wife, Julie, are University of Dayton graduates, and two of his grandchildren are current students.

After graduating from Saint Louis University in 1955 with a degree in electrical engineering, Ben Rice came to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, where he served for five years before becoming a mathematics instructor at the University of Dayton. He received a master’s degree in mathematics from Ohio State University in 1961, was promoted to associate professor in 1972 and became a full professor in 1979.

“Not everyone gets to have this feeling about their vocation, but this really was the love of his life, as far as having this opportunity to be a professor there,” Rob said. “He loved his job and he loved going to work every day, so it seemed like a natural thing to do to keep his name around at the University going forward.”

Rob said he and his brothers — John Rice ’85, Tim Rice ’88, Pat Rice ’89 and the late Mark Rice ’94 — often accompanied their father to campus during their youth. He has fond memories of playing on the swings behind Sherman Hall and sledding down Stuart Hill, years before they enrolled in the University. As students, they would sometimes cross paths with their father on campus, and he would also visit the student neighborhood to say hello.

Ben wore the University logo on almost every piece of apparel — even sporting a University baseball cap on occasions that called for a coat and tie.

“Wearing a UD logo was his invitation for anyone who had any affiliation with the University, such as a graduate, to come up and say ‘Hi’ and start talking about it,” Rob recalled. “That happened a lot. He loved that.”

Professor of mathematics Aparna Higgins remembered Ben as a supportive colleague when she was a junior faculty member. She said he matched her interests and strengths with professional opportunities at the University and then encouraged her to pursue those paths.

Ben authored more than 10 mathematics textbooks, most with Jerry Strange, over several decades. He also was active in campus politics. He was a member of the Faculty Forum, which preceded the Academic Senate, and was a member of the committee that wrote the latter organization’s constitution.

After his retirement, Ben moderated 15 film seminars at the University of Dayton Osher Lifelong Learning Institute from 2003 to 2013. His commitment to the institute earned him “distinguished moderator” status.

Last summer, he and Strange organized a lunch reunion for retired mathematics faculty at a restaurant on Brown Street, near campus.

“The University of Dayton is a better place today because of the 38 years Ben was on the faculty,” Strange said.

To contribute to the Ben Rice Scholarship fund, please call the University advancement division at 937-229-3217 or use the online donation form and specify the Bernard “Ben” Rice Scholarship.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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