Remembering, Professor of Mathematics Emeritus Richard Long

Bridget Donnelly

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Richard G. Long passed away Dec 21, 2009, in Sun City, Ariz. at the age of 78. Long, known by former colleagues and students as a dedicated, laid-back, intelligent and thoughtful teacher, was an integral member of the Lawrence community for 24 years.
During his years at Lawrence, from 1969 to 1993, Long was a major contributor in the development of the computer science program and, according to Physics professor David Cook, he was instrumental in “helping the Lawrence faculty to appreciate that computer science was coming to be a respectable academic discipline, not just vocational training for accountants and bank clerks.”
Chemistry and computer science professor James Evans called Long’s efforts “pivotal,” especially at a time when budget would not allow for hiring of new, specific faculty for what at the time were referred to as “computer studies” classes.
Long is also remembered for his sense of humor, described by professor Alan Parks as “very ironic and clever.”
“Dick Long was,” said professor of mathematics Bruce Pourciau, “warm, unassuming, thoughtful, funny, very intelligent, independent and quirky.”
Long was universally lauded for his patience and understanding. Alumna Lori Kraft Zalewski ’88 remembers Long “was a dedicated professor willing to help his students,” noting his open-door policy and willingness to help all students, even having them come in multiple times a week if they needed extra help.
Zalewski recalls that the best part of Long’s classes were his stories. In particular, she remembers an instance in which Long bought groceries and slipped his checkbook in between the two brown bags, the next day to realize that he had never taken the checkbook out of the bags, which he had used as kindling in his wood-burning stove.
“Of course I can’t make it sound as funny as it was listening to him tell the story on that day,” said Zalewski. “He had a really quiet voice and he was chuckling between all of the sentences. He couldn’t wait to get to the punch line.”
Though Long retired from teaching in 1993 and spent his retirement in both Michigan and Arizona, those who were around during his 24 years at Lawrence remember him fondly. At his retirement, he was commended for having, in his “own quiet and unassuming way, left us a legacy of dedication to students and to helping them gain access to the richness and wonder of mathematics.”
Long, a professor whose “sweater always had the coat-tree-hook shape on the back by the collar and chalk marks … but [he] didn’t care,” left a lasting mark on all those who knew him, and on Lawrence University itself, Long left the now well-established computer science program as a testament to his many efforts.