William L. Duren Jr. (1905-2008), former Mathematical Association of America (MAA) president from 1955 to 1956 and founding chairman of MAA’s Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM), was born November 10, 1905, in Macon, Mississippi. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans as an undergraduate mathematics major and received his BA in 1926.

Duren continued his studies at the University of Chicago, where he wrote his doctoral thesis in calculus of variations under the direction of G. A. Bliss. He received his Ph.D. in 1930 and married the following year.

After graduating, Duren returned to Tulane to teach mathematics, interrupted by a year spent at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study from 1936 to 1937, where he served as assistant to Marston Morse on calculus of variations in the large. He had an office next to Albert Einstein and became acquainted with many leading mathematicians, including Hermann Weyl and John von Neumann. During World War II, Duren worked as a civilian scientist in the Army Air Corps.

On returning to Tulane in 1947, he was named Chairman of the Mathematics Department. There he obtained a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to establish Tulane’s doctoral program in mathematics, which became the model for other such programs in the South. Duren also worked to bring racial integration to the college.

In 1952, Duren was named the first Program Director in Mathematics at the National Science Foundation (NSF). He served for one year, using the position to promote the establishment of mathematics Ph.D. programs around the country. During this time, he also formed the CUPM, which operated for 10 years and brought about improvements in the curricula of undergraduate mathematics.

Duren became president of the MAA in 1955. That same year he left Tulane, to become Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia (1955-1962). In 1962, Duren was appointed the first University Professor, which allowed him to move to the School of Engineering, where he formed a new Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. In 1959, Duren was awarded an honorary LL.D. by Tulane University, and in 1967, he received the MAA Citation for Distinguished Service to Mathematics.

Duren retired in 1976. He wrote historical articles for mathematicians, humorous essays about his childhood in Mississippi and life in New Orleans, and more serious essays. In 2002, Duren wrote a proposal recommending the creation of an interdisciplinary graduate degree in Arts and Sciences. Tulane University established the Duren Professorship Program.

The bulk of the Duren papers documents his work in the promotion of undergraduate mathematics education through his efforts on the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM). These files consist of correspondence, minutes, agendas, printed materials, publications and papers, and handwritten notes. In addition to the CUPM files, materials concerning Duren’s work as a professor are included in this collection. These files consist of correspondence, lectures, teaching materials, publications and papers, and printed materials.

Forms part of the Archives of American Mathematics.

This collection is open for use.

These papers are stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.

William L. Duren Jr. Papers, 1946-2005, Archives of American Mathematics, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.