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Institute of Texan Cultures: 96-year old geometry teacher Stephen Juhasz honored
(Jan. 13, 2010)--Ninety-six-year-old Stephen Juhasz (pronounced Yoo-house) has taught geometry for more than 25 years and has been a mechanical engineer for more than 50. He was honored for his years of volunteer service at the Institute of Texan Cultures and service to San Antonio's engineering community at a Jan. 6 ceremony.
At ITC, Juhasz has a lab where he teaches geometry each Wednesday. His continuing volunteerism and a unique family connection inspired former ITC docent Nancy Klapp to paint a portrait to commemorate Juhasz's service at the institute and to San Antonio's engineering community.
On Jan. 6, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, representatives from the Southwest Research Institute and members of the UTSA math department gathered at the ITC with Juhasz, institute volunteers and staff to present Juhasz with the large portrait by Klapp.
"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for giving me the greatest surprise of my life," Juhasz said.
Klapp's link to Juhasz goes back two generations. When her grandson, Hardy Hill, was volunteering in the geometry lab, Juhasz asked who the person was in the portrait on his t-shirt. When Hardy said it was his great-grandfather, Russell Hill, Juhasz was amazed, since Russell had been a close friend many years ago. Klapp's portrait of Juhasz commemorates this almost-familial connection, his distinguished career and his continuing dedication to the advancement of knowledge.
"Dr. Juhasz has had a long career in San Antonio, and he has served ITC with generosity and enthusiasm," said Klapp. "He is an interesting gentleman in so many ways, and all these things contributed to my idea to paint him and to donate the painting to ITC to honor him."
Juhasz donated the contents of his geometry lab to UTSA in 2005. He uses items such as a box fan, laser pointer and steam to create visuals of cones, parabola, hyperbola, circles and ellipses. The bookshelves of the lab are loaded with geometry books and models of polyhedrons, and the walls are decorated with the geometrically complicated artworks of M.C. Escher.
"Geometry is the basis of actually everything," Juhasz once told UTSA's Sombrilla magazine. "It's the basis of mathematics, of everything humans are doing with their hands and what nature has created."
"Dr. Juhasz's lifelong commitment to education is unparalleled," said Tim Gette, ITC executive director. "We are grateful for his volunteerism, for his passion for geometry and mathematics and for his teaching in a way that makes very complicated math very easy and very fun."
Juhasz previously was honored with the Frank von Flue Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a national award acknowledging contributions to the promotion of lifelong learning for mechanical engineers.
"Geometry is pre-eminent in Dr. Juhasz' mathematical canon, and we have all been impressed with the dedication he has to working with students of all ages to make them believers, too," said Sandy Norman, chairman of UTSA's mathematics department. "The perspective that he brings to geometry from his engineering background brings a life to the subject that is frequently lost in the formal axiomatic approach that one often sees in mathematics classes today."
The Institute of Texan Cultures is on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. Durango Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); and free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call (210) 458-2300 or visit the Institute of Texan Cultures Web site.
The 182,000-square-foot complex features 65,000 square feet of interactive exhibits and displays that tell the stories of Texans. The institute develops quality, accessible resources for educators and lifelong learners, striving to expand the community's awareness and appreciation of Texas through exhibits, programs and special events.