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Professor emeritus of math Donald Greenspan dies at 82

Robert Gatchel
Robert Gatchel

Donald Greenspan was already over 20 years into a successful and distinguished career when he applied for a faculty position in the Department of Mathematics at UT Arlington in 1978. Dr. Greenspan was already a noted expert in the fields of numerical analysis and computational modeling, and members of the UT Arlington math hiring committee could hardly believe it when they saw his resume.

"We were very surprised, but delighted that he wanted to come here," said Danny Dyer, professor of math and a member of that hiring committee in 1978. "Here was this world-famous superstar in his field that was interested in joining our faculty. Because of his stature, he gave us instant credibility. It was like when a fisherman throws out his line and catches the big one."

Dr. Greenspan continued his teaching and research at UT Arlington until his retirement in 2000. A professor emeritus of the department, Dr. Greenspan died Sunday, May 2 in Arlington at age 82.

"Dr. Greenspan was an internationally recognized scholar in mathematical modeling and simulations," Department of Mathematics chair Jianping Zhu said. "His presence in the Department of Mathematics at UT Arlington significantly boosted the standing of our department in the mathematics community and enhanced our department and UT Arlington's visibility in the country and the world. He was also an excellent teacher. His efforts in our classrooms produced a lasting impact on hundreds of students."

Dr. Greenspan's classes were always popular, particularly with engineering students, Dyer said. Invariably, the number of students wanting to take his classes would exceed the number of chairs in the classroom, but Dr. Greenspan would attempt to accommodate the extra students by bringing in armchairs and placing them in the aisles. The fire marshal had to be called in more than once, Dyer recalled.

"He was an outstanding teacher and very well-liked by his students," Dyer said. "He was very warm, very energetic, a real live wire with a terrific sense of humor."

One thing Dr. Greenspan didn't abide, Dyer recalled, was students showing up to class late and disrupting his lectures. He had a simple solution to this problem: He locked the classroom door upon entering.

"Those kids learned pretty quickly that they'd better not let him get to Gatchel In addition to his role at UT Arlington, Gatchel is also a clinical professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth and Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas.

He currently is lead investigator on a $1.5 million U.S. Department of Defense-funded study involving treatment of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also is working on a $4 million Gatchel National Institutes of Health project to examine early intervention strategies for temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder, or TMJMD.

Earlier this year, Gatchel won the 2011 American Psychological Association Division 38 Award for Outstanding Career Contributions to Health Psychology. Division 38 is the health psychology interest group within the American Psychological Association.

The Texas Psychological Association presented the lifetime achievement award to Gatchel Friday, Nov. 18 as part of the group's annual convention in San Antonio.