College of Science & Engineering Alumni Newsletter

Spring 1999

Retired Professor and Administrator Frank Sheehan

Frank Sheehan was hired in the spring semester of 1954 to "broaden course offerings" in mathematical statistics, operations research and actuarial science (or so he was told). He immediately joined with David Blakeslee to try to introduce basic courses needed as upper division offerings. Blakeslee introduced and brilliantly taught our first offering in Modern Algebra. Sheehan stumbled through our first shot at Analysis. In 1955, Ralph Lakness arrived, the department's first Ph.D. mathematician, and Sheehan never taught Analysis again. Lakness moved quickly to establish an MA program and strengthen the faculty. He brought in Newman Fisher, Robert Levit, Fred Neustadter -- the beginnings of a long line of mathematicians.

This climate of expansion made it possible for Frank, over a 39 year period, to teach more than 40 different courses, some of them several times and several of them many times. Course titles ranged from Slide Rule to Markov Chains; from Math in Human Affairs to Linear Economic Models; and, with the traditional calculus and statistics courses in between.

Wanting to see how statistics and operations research were used in the "outside world,” Sheehan resigned from the faculty in 1957 and moved to Monterey, spending his first year there working as a Project Scientist at Combat Development Experimentation Center (CDEC). After one year, a genie presented three choices: Stay at CDEC and work for SRI; move to Boston; or teach at the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School. After three years at the Navy School and a total of four years of living more than 100 miles from his native San Francisco, he leaped at the opportunity to return to S.F. State in 1961.

After return to State, involvement with the Academic Senate, service on the Campus Planning Committee and assisting the School Dean with budgets and building planning led to joining the administration in 1968 as Director of Campus Development. In the mid 1960's, there was a more generous use of "reduced teaching load" than is enjoyed by faculty today for those who served on certain committees or were elected officers of the Senate. This happy state of affairs brought about an impasse, for when Sheehan found himself to be a member of the University Planning Committee, assistant to the School Dean and elected as Vice Chair of the Senate, he was to enjoy a 150% reduction in his teaching assignment. The arithmetic impossibility of that arrangement was solved by becoming a full time administrator. During his decade long administrative adventure, responsibility for Institutional Research was added to the job description and, for 14 very long months the task of (acting) Vice President for Business and Administration was tossed in from ‘73-‘74. Thus, what was to be a 150% reduction became a 150% increase in workload.

After helping to bring on line Verducci Hall, Thornton Hall, Hensill Hall, Library Addition, Administration Addition, Health Center and Student Union, and losing on Married Student Housing, Humanities Building and a couple of Parking Structures, a step forward to more teaching seemed in order in 1977. The return to teaching was pleasant, but Senate and committees lingered on. Frank’s memory can retrieve the names of more than twenty committee assignments. Surely there are more, but mercifully memory has erased them. Presidential selection (twice) cannot be forgotten; nor can the University Budget Committee, Student Union Council or its successor the Student Union Governing Board. Department promotions and a Grievance committee caused some stomach wrenching. In retirement, he is happy to be involved with only three committees.

Consulting has been a pleasant way to keep in touch with the real world of applications. Meteorology, Data transmission correction, potato chip manufacture quality control and a number of in-house collaborations provided examples that enlivened teaching in several courses.

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Updated by Lannie Nguyen-Tang on August 3rd, 2000