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The Numbers Add Up

A smart investment made by a Drew mathematics professor 30 years ago will bear academic fruit for generations to come.

Norma Gilbert taught Mathematics at Drew for 25 years, starting in 1964, chairing the math department for several years in the 1970s. In 1976 she published Statistics, which became an academic bestseller. The book’s success enabled Gilbert to buy stock in Microsoft after the company went public. Three decades later, the windfall she reaped from the investment has enabled her son to make the largest gift ever devoted to Drew’s math program.

The $3 million donation from Steven Gilbert, a photographer living in Brooklyn, will fund the Norma Gilbert Junior Professorship in Mathematics, designed to attract gifted young mathematicians to The Forest. The gift is the seventh largest in Drew’s history. Also, Gilbert will donate another $2 million if the University raises additional funds to support the professorship and other math scholarships, research and internships.

“This significant gift will greatly strengthen Drew’s math program,” President MaryAnn Baenninger said. “It’s also a fitting tribute to Norma, who was a leader on campus, a gifted teacher and, as a woman, a trailblazer. The entire Drew community is incredibly grateful for Steve’s generosity.”

Norma Gilbert earned a bachelor’s degree—summa cum laude—from Smith College and a master’s degree from New York University. Three years after joining Drew as an instructor in 1964, she received her PhD from the Stevens Institute of Technology, enabling her to become an assistant professor and, later, a professor.

In the classroom she was an innovator, using, for example, closed-circuit television to teach two sections of statistics at the same time. As the Paterson Morning News explained in 1977, Gilbert taught “two differently paced classes simultaneously by appearing before them in the same period alternatively ‘live’ and on videotape.” Part of what drove her to write Statistics was a desire to have a more definitive textbook for her students.

Asked what his mother, who died in 2001, would have thought of his donation, Gilbert said, “She’d be very proud.” He added: “I’ve inherited a fortune, and with that comes responsibility. And I think she would say, ‘That’s about the best thing you could do with it.’”

Gilbert’s generosity put Drew beyond its $80 million goal in its One And All campaign, which raised $85.4 million by its close on June 30. It’s also his second major contribution to Drew: In 2005 he endowed the Gilbert Family Scholarship in Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics in memory of his mother and father, Everett Gilbert, an accomplished chemist.

The junior professorship enables Drew to fund two math professors — a search is already under way—who are expected to join the Drew faculty next fall.

A Family of Academics

Steven Gilbert’s father, Everett Gilbert, an accomplished chemist, earned a remarkable 180 patents during his career. And while Everett didn’t teach, his father, Allan Gilbert, was an exceptional Renaissance scholar, and his brother, Creighton, was a renowned art historian. Allan made his mark as a professor of English literature at Duke University, but he also taught at Drew from 1963 until 1974.


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