2014 Perkins Award for Excellence in Teaching

Bill Peterson, Professor of Mathematics, has been awarded the 2014 Perkins Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Professor Peterson teaches courses in probability, statistics, stochastic (or random) processes, and operations research, in addition to calculus and linear algebra. He also offers from time-to-time a first-year seminar titled “Chance,” which examines timely topics from the combined perspective of probability and statistics. His most recent “Chance” seminar evaluated the risks of texting while driving, the spurious data used to suggest a link between vaccines and autism, and the questionable methodology of the college rankings in U.S. News and World Report.

Outside the classroom Peterson has delivered scores of presentations at schools and conferences on topics such as “The Monty Hall Problem,” “How Many Iraqi Civilian Casualties?” and “Probability, Queues, and The Real World.” He has written numerous book chapters and refereed articles, and in 2011 he published the book “Probability Tales” (American Mathematical Society) along with co-authors Charles Grinstead of Swarthmore College and J. Laurie Snell, who was Peterson’s esteemed advisor at Dartmouth College. The book explores four real-world topics – streaks, the stock market, lotteries, and fingerprints – through the lens of probability theory, and is used widely to supplement standard college texts.

Professor Peterson was honored at a ceremony and dinner on April 3.

The Perkins Award is provided by the Professor Llewellyn R. Perkins and Dr. Ruth M.H. Perkins Memorial Research Fund, and it was made possible by a gift from Ruth Perkins, Middlebury Class of 1932, in memory of her husband, Llewellyn, who taught at Middlebury from 1914 through 1941. Professor Perkins founded and chaired the mathematics department.

Their children, Marion Perkins Harris ’57, a science teacher, and David Perkins, a physician, augmented the fund and expanded the scope of the award to honor their mother, Ruth, as well as their father. The award supports the recipient’s faculty development. It is presented in even-numbered years to a member of the mathematics or computer science department, and in odd-numbered years to a faculty member who teaches in the natural sciences.



 Marion Harris, Susie Harris, Bill Peterson and Catherine Harris