In Memorium: Professor Harriet Botta

Written by Debby Repka (Lecturer at University of Toronto)

DSCN1182Harriet Botta, Professor of Mathematics at York University, died on June 23, 2016. She was the wife of  the late Peter Botta,  Undergraduate Coordinator in the Mathematics Department for many years. Harriet’s high intelligence and gift for mathematics made her unique. There were very few women of her generation who had the courage to pursue this subject; in fact, women were directed away from the sciences. Harriet faced great adversity as she entered the job market. She was told by the then Chair of the Department at the University of Toronto that she shouldn’t apply for a position here because she would be taking a job away from a male who had to support a family.  Despite her disappointment, she persevered and eventually was hired by York University. No department chair today would dare turn away a talented woman scientist, and this is thanks in part to the determination of Harriet and a few other female pioneers to remain academic mathematicians.

Harriet had a special relationship with her husband Peter. Finding a soulmate was not an easy task given the prejudice of most men of her generation against smart women. Peter was progressive beyond his time and wished to share his life with someone who could appreciate his scientific interests. Together they had a rich intellectual life, engaging in lively discussions on a wide range of topics. They were generous in these explorations, opening their home to all those who wanted to join in. Both Peter and Harriet were avid readers, so they had a broad perspective on many issues, challenging friends to think beyond their preconceptions. Often these conversations took place around the dining room table, while Peter served rarefied treats like blini and caviar and, on other occasions, heartier fare like the sausages and flapjacks of the lumberjack breakfasts of his youth.

Harriet deeply appreciated Peter’s achievement of moulding the members of the administrative staff in the Department into a family. With his encouragement, they established harmonious relationships that extended beyond the office, and their long-lasting friendships will endure into the future. Because of the spirit of cooperation and the dedication that Peter fostered, he was able to bring about important innovations in the undergraduate mathematics program. To honour his legacy, Harriet established a fund that, each year, treats the administrative staff to lunch in an elegant restaurant. Her thoughtful gift makes a continuing vital contribution to the Department. She will also be remembered by her many friends among the faculty.

What her friends and colleagues will recall most about Harriet is that she was a true lady. She was raised in an era in which good manners were inculcated in young people, and she never abandoned her high standards. While the society around her became more and more crass, she retained an air of refinement and sophistication. Even towards the end of her life, when her physical suffering was great, she never lost her dignity.  To quote Plutarch:  “The generous mind adds dignity to every act, and nothing misbecomes it.”

Department Highlighted in Fields Notes

For it’s involvement in the Mathematics Pavilion at this year’s Science Rendezvous the department received a nod and a two page spread of photos from this year’s event.

The full article can be found here (starting on page 12)

For the past three years the Math department has had an ever growing pavilion at Science Rendezvous.  This near exponential growth has been in good part due to the efforts of the Fields Institute and their generous usage of space and resources.  This year’s event saw over 300 visitors and allowed them to freely tour the Fields Institute and be up close and personal with a wide variety of math activities and personel.

We look forward to next year’s event and the continued growth of this wonderful pavilion.

Math Kangaroo Featured in CMS Notes

The CMS notes recently ran an article written by the board members of the Canadian Math Kangaroo competition detailing the potential competition like this have for popularizing the field of Mathematics for our up-and-coming mathematicians.

The article provides an overview of the competition, sample problems and background on the competition.  It also talks of how the competition helps to involve and inspire students to be involved with mathematics in a context outside the typical classroom.

The full article can be found here (starting on page 8 )

This year the GTA section of the competition saw over 900 students participate across the three UofT campuses (UTSC, UTM and St George) and had over 50 staff and students volunteer to make it a success.

More information on UofT’s involvement with the competition can be found here

Staff Member Profiled


Beverley Leslie

Beverley Leslie, Winner of this Year's Dean's Outstanding Achievement Award for Distinguished Service

Recently the Faculty of Arts and Science News sat down with our very own Beverley Leslie to discuss her recent Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Distinguished Service.

In the article Ms. Leslie speaks about her time in the department and her reactions to winning such a prestigious award.  As a vital member of the department for almost 25 years she has made significant contributions to the department, and the university, as whole.

When asked about her reaction to winning the award Ms. Leslie is quoted as saying: ““I just try to provide a high-quality environment for teaching and research, and the service that people deserve.”

With a career spanning through multiple areas of the faculty and a current position that touches every aspect of the department and it’s operations it’s no wonder Ms. Leslie was honoured with such an amazing award.   We all wish her congratulations on well deserved honour!

The full Faculty article can be found here

Staff Member Profiled

A reporter for the Faculty of Arts and Science News recently sat down with Ms. Ida Bulat, Graduate Administrator for the Department of Mathematics, to discuss her recent Student Life Award win and her thoughts on the award and her job in general.

In the article Ms. Bulat is quoted as saying: “I’m not here to get awards, I’m here to do my job.” The article is an excellent profile of the selflessness that Ms. Bulat shows towards her job and the department as a whole in her duties as Graduate Administrator.

The full article can be found here: http://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/main/newsitems/ida-bulat

Outstanding Administrative Staff Honoured

Each year the Faculty of Arts and Science, through the Dean’s office, honours administrative staff for their extraordinary contributions to the Faculty.  This year the Mathematics Department is proud to honour two of it’s own.

Ms. Beverley Leslie, Department Manager, was awarded with the Dean’s Distinguished Service award.  This award is presented to a non-academic staff member who has, over the course of their years of service to the Faculty of Arts and Science, distinguished themselves in ways that are beyond the expectations of administrative peers, academic colleagues and students.

In addition, Ms. Ida Bulat, Graduate Administrator, is the recipient of the Dean’s Student Life Award.  This award recognizes an administrative staff member who has improved the quality of the student experience in the Faculty of Arts and Science. This award recognizes innovations and demonstrated improvements to the services provided to students.

Support for both these awards was strong from both faculty and students in the department.  It is a well deserved honour for them both, please join us in wishing them congratulations!