George Hurlburt: A Passion for Math

George Hurlburt says, at one point, he wanted to do anything but teach.  

With initial plans to major in both computer science and math, things shifted after George graduated with a degree in math and history from SUNY Potsdam.  

“I went to graduate school to earn an MS degree. I went as a graduate teaching assistant, because that was the only way I could afford it,” recalls George. “I soon found that I enjoyed teaching. My students said I was pretty good at it.”

This is no surprise, as George credits his father, who worked as a high school math teacher, as the one who first peaked his interest in math.  

Now, after first teaching in the Midwest, George has been at Corning Community College for two decades. 

“When I first started teaching, I was a very traditional lecturer. Over the years, I’ve added more student involvement as much as possible,” he says. “I try to connect math with things students might see in their lives. [That’s why] I love our new Quantitative Reasoning courses. Students in those classes never ask ‘when am I ever going to use this in my life?’”

And his passion for math is clear both in and outside of the classroom. 

Recently, George was awarded the Outstanding Contributions to Mathematics Education award through the New York State Mathematics Association of Two Year Colleges (NYSMATYC). 

The organization, founded in 1967, was the first professional organization created to support math faculty at two-year colleges. Over the years, George has also been heavily involved, having given an estimated twenty presentations at NYSMATYC conferences. He’s also served as the organization’s President twice. 

Fun fact: NYSMATYC’s first president, Herb Gross, was a SUNY CCC faculty member. In fact, more NYSMATYC presidents have been from SUNY CCC than any other college!

When asked for a favorite memory over the years at SUNY CCC, George’s answer is simple: the people.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing students during my twenty years at CCC,” he says. “My fondest memories are always the students who struggled, worked really hard and were successful. The obstacles that some of our students overcome just amazes me.”

So what does he tell those students who, every semester he says, have decided math is not their strong suit?

“I say that you can get through this, but you’re probably going to struggle,” George says. “Getting help when you need it is critical.”

George also says he’s fortunate to be able to work alongside his wife in the math department. “We’ve spent countless hours talking about teaching and how to

improve. She’s a much better teacher than I, so I’ve stolen a lot of ideas from her! She’s made me a much better teacher.”

When George isn’t teaching, he enjoys spending time with his family, downhill skiing and woodworking. He’s also looking forward to taking some family trips that, unfortunately, have been postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Though as we move into the upcoming summer session and fall semester, George says it’s his students -- even those who aren’t particularly strong at math -- who inspire him the most. 

“If I can get them to move from ‘I hate math and I can’t do it’ to ‘I can do math and I don’t hate it anymore,’ then I think I’ve been very successful!”