Ken Fryer, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1984


Kenneth D. Fryer has taught mathematics at Waterloo for twenty-five years. Ken Fryer holds the rank of professor in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization for the Faculty of Mathematics, and has served as an associate dean of the faculty since 1966, the year in which it was founded. In honouring Ken Fryer, we honour a dedicated and skilful teacher who has had an enormous influence on two generations of mathematics students at Waterloo, in the high schools of Ontario, and across Canada. Ken Fryer is a superb classroom teacher. He knows mathematics, and he understands students. His lectures are memorable: meticulously prepared, beautifully organized, and delivered with wit and humour - Ken Fryer has a great sense of humour. He seems to have an unlimited supply of wonderfully topical jokes for any occasion. He is a demanding taskmaster who succeeds in motivating students to work very hard to learn. They learn well and enjoy the experience. However, Ken's contributions as a teacher of mathematics extend far beyond the university classroom. Many high-school students were introduced to the concepts of mathematics by teachers who had been taught by Ken, using textbooks written by Ken. The best ones took part in the various nation-wide math contests organized by Ken. When the time came to choose a university, many met Ken again, when he visited their schools or when they visited Waterloo. Their teachers met Ken through organizations like the Grand Valley Mathematics Association, and the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education, and in various upgrading courses in which he was one of their teachers. They also encountered his ideas and benefited from his work as editor of the Ontario Secondary School Mathematics Bulletin. The nomination of Ken Fryer for the Distinguished Teacher Award was accompanied by many letters, letters from recent students, letters from former students who now teach mathematics in the high schools, and letters from colleagues who teach math at Waterloo - some of whom are also former students. Their words offer eloquent testimony to Ken's outstanding qualifications for the award. Two recent students write: “We both recall the counselling we received from our math teachers and department heads; inevitably they were of the opinion that. Dr. Fryer was one of the foremost Canadian educators in mathematics. As we are reminded of this advice, we must say that this praise was well deserved.” A former student, who now heads a high-school mathematics department wrote this: “If I were to single out one educator who has had a tremendous influence on me as a teacher, it would be Ken. His interest in people, warmth, kindness and sincerity are appreciated. To me Ken is 'Mr. Waterloo'.” Perhaps the ultimate tribute to a great teacher is to be found in the concluding words of a letter from a colleague: “From my viewpoint, the 'products' of Dr. Fryer's teaching are the students, not the teaching aids he uses, not the course notes he prepares, not the textbooks he has written - the 'products' are the students themselves. I have met the 'products' of his teaching. [it is] my opinion that [they] are superb.”

[Professor Fryer died in 1984]