So, a comedian walks into a math class. At first the predictable happens—students laugh. But then the improbable begins. Students are increasingly stretched. They start to absorb lectures online at night in their rooms and do their “homework” by day in class. They learn how to fail, how to learn from failure, and the essential role that failure plays in creativity. They flock not only to his courses, but to those across the department, and eventually major in math at a rate twenty times the national average. Meanwhile he takes his act on the road. He represents Williams to adoring alumni across the country. He also hits the virtual road, creating thousands of videos that explain math to students from kindergarten to college. NBC gets him to explain comically to the country the math behind the Winter Olympics. He somehow finds time to write books and articles, perhaps during all those times stuck in the lounge at O’Hare. The critics take notice. He’s named national teacher of the year—first in math and then in all subjects. The Huffington Post includes him in its list of top “innovators, mavericks, visionaries, and leaders.” He’s asked to speak about effective thinking at organizations, including Microsoft and the World Bank. And now he’s been appointed the fifteenth president of Southwestern University, proving, if it hadn’t already been clear, that actually none of this was a joke.
I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Laws, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 2, 2013