Thomas Bradford Gregory
Gregory gives back
Ohio State Mansfield emeritus professor Tom Gregory has been chosen to receive the Honorary Alumnus Award from Ashland University April 9 in recognition of his devotion to the institution. It's quite an accomplishment considering he never attended the university.
Deirdre Gregory, who received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2013 from Ashland University, feels her husband more than deserves the recognition.
“He’s so giving with his time,” she said. “Apparently someone noticed and thought he needed to be recognized for that.”
His continuing contributions to Ohio State Mansfield are equally worthy of notice. Although retired, Gregory still finds time to play piano for convocation, graduation celebration and other events. He provides assistance as a math tutor in the Conard Learning Center during hectic finals hours. And he is part of the University Chorus, singing alongside students. Gregory, a professor here for 34 years, also volunteered to participate in a campus video shoot, showing his exuberance for teaching math.
Gregory spends what time he can playing the piano at various events in the Richland County area, including at Kingwood Center Gardens during the Christmas season. He learned to play in Michigan, where he grew up.
“My first piano teacher was a janitor at a high school in another tiny town in Michigan next to ours,” Gregory said. “Then I took piano lessons from someone at Adrian College and then I went to a college where you could have piano lessons free for four years.”
Playing piano is just one item in Gregory’s impressive skillset. He’s proficient in Russian, German and French. He chose math as a profession because of its practicality.
“I chose English and Math because they were applicable,” Gregory said. “When I had to declare, I chose math because the further you go in math, the more options that remain open to you.”
Gregory received his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, and his doctorate from Yale. It took him 10 years to complete his Ph.D. due to a break for Navy duty, which is where he learned Russian.
“I did a correspondence course with a lady at the University of Wisconsin,” Gregory said. “I had records and I wrote things and she would send them back with great masses of red marks on them.”
Gregory’s wife, Deirdre, an Ashland University alumna, admires Gregory’s accomplishments.
“I think he has a brilliant mind,” she said. “I was really intimidated by him when we first met.”
Gregory’s life is filled with evidence of his giving to others—even if it means something as small as helping students relax before a big exam. At one point he taught in a classroom where a piano was kept.
“He would play for the students. One time he wore a tuxedo and played for them before their final,” she said.
Gregory is still giving back to academia through his mathematical research. He works with an abstract form of mathematics called Lie Algebra.
He shows page after page of equations that he worked on that day while waiting for a dental appointment.
“He takes his math everywhere,” she said.
“I can never quite close it off,” Gregory added.
It’s a broad form of research requiring much trial and error; Gregory’s been working on a problem for 15 years.
“I try to focus down as narrowly as possible,” Gregory said. “That’s where you actually make the progress.”
With his wealth of experience and accomplishments, Gregory has one piece of advice for the current generation.
“I don’t disdain drudgery,” Gregory said. “You’ll go a long way by hunkering down and not giving up.”