This is hard. We have lost too many in such a short span.
On my 2nd day of freshman orientation back in October 2007, our schedules were released. We were excited to see who of our new friends we would be sharing classes with. We were excited to see what times our classes were. Most of us probably secretly hoped we did not have 8AMs. I was OK with the early classes. I was secretly hoping to not have any conflicts with my Japanese class already in progress at Oakland University!
The upperclassmen gathered around us and gave us their assessments on professors. Oh you have XYZ, they are awful. Professor Bell… you will LOVE him. Then it got to mine. None of the other names said were on my schedule so when they looked at it they determined I was the luckiest of the bunch. Sure I did not have Bell for chemistry, but I had Professor Wing for Econ and Professor McCartin for Calc 1.
Fast forward 3 days to my first day of college class. 8AM. Room 3-something something something (all I remember is it was on the 3rd floor across from the math computer lab. We are all standing around the locked classroom door at 7:58 and still no professor. Pretty silently; I am not sure if this is because we did not know each other too well or because it was 8AM… Up walks this tall guy with a very distinctive professor look: sport jacket, carrying a reusable tote bag and had this swagger about him that those who know McCartin know what I am talking about. We parted like the red sea to let him through to the door. He did not say a word, just let us silently file in and take our seats. I sat close to the front on the right (door) side of the classroom. He sat at the desk, took out a pile of papers (the syllabus) and a manila folder. Then he took up a rolled up handkerchief with a silver object in it… more on this later…
At 8:00 he shut the door and silently passed out the syllabus and asked us to review it. There were people knocking on the door but he just ignored it until he was all done. He then opened the door and silently allowed the remaining students to trickle in and take their seats. After everyone was seated he stated that the cladd started at 8AM promptly and that tardiness would not be tolerated. He had another section at 11AM.
Welcome to college! I made sure I showed up no later than 7:55 for fear that somehow my watch was wrong.
As the semester went on, he made calc one seem so effortless. He explained why we were learning what we did. He realized that not many of us were math majors, not all of us wanted to work on cars and while I was not convinced he knew anything about us, he did. He was able to somehow relate to every one of us.
He did not grade homework. He suggested problems but we had a test every 3rd Friday, 6th Friday and 9th Friday. Every class he taught, you could count on this. So 3rd Wednesday of rolls around and I had been doing homework but there were a few problems that stumped me. I sheepishly walked into his office to ask for help. He did not judge me, he simply asked me to see what I had tried and showed me what I did wrong and how I should right it. I got an 80 (yes I did just look that up). I repeated this 6th week and 9th week and ended up with a 88 overall, back on the WAG scale.
Because McCartin instilled this confidence in me, I decided to be a dual Physics and Math major. He made Calc 1 easy. HA! I can do derivatives to this day with ease. Integrals I struggle with. When I come to an answer, I always have to take the derivative again to make sure it was right. And Matrix… yikes! After another 2 terms, I dropped my math major.
I had to wait another 2 years to take another class with him, but we would exchange pleasantries in the hallways between then. I got really lucky and had transfer credits so got the last spot in McCartin’s DiffEq class. Honestly, I think this was my favorite math class and one of my favorite overall classes at Kettering. I know, the dreaded DiffEq! He taught us all of the cool applications as to why we were learning what we were learning. He showed us why we had to learn all of these techniques.
Here’s where that silver object came in. One day when we were learning about why we could not use separation of variables, he went down the path and got super animated about how no one, not even him, was smart enough to do this math. He said we should write it down and i we could solve it, he would give us his prized silver chalk holder. He loved writing with chalk but did not want to get his hands and his clothing full of it. We didn’t solve it so his chalk holder was safe. As they were phasing out chalk boards, he always seemed to find the one or two classrooms with chalk boards to use as his.
Again that semester we had our tests 3rd, 6th and 9th Fridays. I did well enough that I was sitting on the bubble to get an A (this was after we switched to GPA). Our lecture 11th week usually consisted of a “mother of all applications” as he called it. It was not something that would be on our final but something really cool that tied together everything we learned in the class. In Calc 1 it was a physics problem that I am ashamed to admit that I do not remember. In DiffEq he was supposed to do musical theory – his area of expertise. All of the upperclassmen said this is one of the best lectures anyone at Kettering gives and do NOT miss it. Our section of DiffE is at 2:25 and it is packed. Well class time comes and goes and no Professor McCartin. We all look around at each other, wondering what happened. Then Professor Hayrapetan walks in looking like he saw a ghost. The class collectively inhales mirroring the same worry that he has on his face. He informs us that McCartin had suffered a heart attack and was in the hospital. We were all concerned for him. It was secondary for us to worry about our final or about the music lecture. We were dismissed, informed there would be no music lecture and no final.
I thought this was it. Professor McCartin does not often teach things other than Calc 1 and DiffEq. I still had 3 more math classes to take, but I was bummed to not get to have that music lecture. But it just so happened that the semester I was scheduled to take Numes, he was scheduled to teach it. I made sure my schedule allowed for me to take one of his sections. It was then that I had all sorts of “ah ha!” moments of things I was supposed to learn in Matrix. It solidified for me that he was the best math teacher at Kettering hands down. Towards the end of the semester, I ran into him outside of class and asked hi if I could attend his last DiffEq lecture on music because I missed it when he taught me. He said he would be honored if I would attend. I can safely say it was one of the coolest lectures ever. The upperclassmen did not lie!
I also learned that McCartin was a HUGE Wings fan. In Calc 1, he told us that if he caught any of us wearing a Pittsburg jersey (the team we were playing in the finals), they would automatically fail. We won the cup that year so life was good.
He retired from Kettering in September last year. He did one last lecture at Kettering and it was standing room only in the Crib-a-thon. I was in California already but luckily it was posted to Youtube and I immediately came home and watched it on my big screen TV. There was not a lecture that I did not soak up.
Professor McCartin, you were the best, no doubt about it. Thank you for your 22 years of teaching at Kettering and thank you for the 4 amazing math classes you taught me in. Go Wings!
Some of my favorite McCartin quotes:
- “I’d rather do 3 baby chain rules than one monster one, any day of the week, even if it’s Monday but really Friday” (It was 11th week… you kinda had to go to Kettering to get that one, sorry)
- “The most common application of math is waging war”
- “If I ever get my dream of becoming emperor of the universe…” (this was a common one)
- “You are walking around Flint and they tell you that they will blow you away if you do not calculate i^256.”
- “Do you prove the quadratic formula every time you use it?… NO!”
- “We can do that if we were awake in calculus three”
- “A slug… why not a snot or a boogar?”
- “I am not any happier than you about it… actually I am even less happy because I’ve got to do it. You get to watch”
- “I just made up my own laws of algebra”
- “If you were allowed to do that, calc 2 would be 1 class long!” – McCartin
- “The worst fucking up you could possibly fuck up”
- “It’s a cyber-Monday deal – you get an extra order of accuracy for free”