Black, Florence

Florence
Black, PhD
Year Inducted: 
1973
Florence Black
Highlights: 
  • Mathematics for over 40 years until retirement in 1960
  • Florence Black Teaching Award in Mathematics was established upon her retirement
  • Treasurer of the Women’s Faculty Club from 1930 to the 1970s and College Faculty Secretary for over 20 years
  • Faculty Adviser of the Jay Jaynes, the KU women’s pep club, from its founding until 1952
  • Avid KU Athletics supporter: did not miss one single basketball game from 1918 to 1973 and missed no football games until the later years of her life
Biography: 

Florence Black (Nov 22, 1889-Sept 13, 1974), affectionately known as “Blackie”, served for years as an outstanding, rigorous Mathematics Professor at the University of Kansas.  Extremely active in University life, she was an ultimate fan of KU Athletics.

Miss Black received her AB degree in 1913 from KU, and then went into secondary education.  She taught at Anthony (KS) High School from 1912-1915 and at Wichita High School from 1915-1918.  At that time, she returned to KU as an Instructor of Mathematics, earning her MA in 1921 and her PhD in 1926.  She taught at the school for 42 years before retiring from active teaching in 1960.  During that time, she taught many mathematics and engineering students analytic geometry, calculus, and differential equations.  She was described as “sympathetic and patient with those who were trying to learn, but…demanding with those who were careless and lazy.”  In honor of her work, the Florence Black Teaching Award in Mathematics was established upon her retirement.   Perhaps the most telling statement of her teaching style came from Chancellor Mallott: “She always impressed me because she seemed to be interested in teaching students, rather than peddling a discipline.”

The University greatly benefitted by Professor Black’s devoted enthusiasm and dedication to extracurricular activities.  She served as a member on the Committee on Scholarships for 20 years, the College Faculty Secretary for 19 years, Treasurer of the University Chapter of Sigma Xi (an international honor society for engineering and science) for 12 years, and Treasurer of the Women’s Faculty Club from 1930 to the 1970s, when the club disbanded.  Professor Black was the faculty adviser of the Jay Jaynes, the KU women’s pep club, from its founding until 1952.  She loved the outdoors, swimming, tennis (she and her sister won the high school tennis doubles championship), horseback riding, camping, and was well known by the students for this energy, as the campus was much smaller then.  Students, mathematics or not, all knew her for her car, Algebraic Analytic, or Algie Ann, for short.  She famously escaped a shipwreck on a trip to Alaska in 1939, and visited Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya in her lifetime.

Florence Black held a phenomenal record of attendance at KU football and basketball games.  Attending with her best friend and fellow Mathematics Professor Wealthy Babcock, Miss Black did not miss one single basketball game from 1918 to 1973 and missed no football games until it became too cold for her.  She and Wealthy could be found every Saturday morning at the team football meetings, reviewing film.  Legendary KU Football Coach Don Fambrough once said, “Every coach deserves to have at least one fan like Florence Black.”


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