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Ryerson Alumni Relations | December 2016

Retired professor of mathematics leaves a legacy

Jill Padgett, Applied Mathematics (MSc '15)

Jill Padgett, Applied Mathematics (MSc '15). Photo: Mike Ford.

In the fall of 2017, a master’s student in the Applied Mathematics program will be the first to receive the Geoff Boyes Graduate Award, named for the retired Ryerson math professor who passed away in 2014.
A donor to Ryerson for many years, Boyes remembered the Faculty of Science in his will, bequeathing the university over $200,000.

The endowed award is to help a graduate student in financial need, which fits with the helpfulness that Boyes is remembered for among colleagues and students. One of his students, Alex Ferworn (Applied Computer Science, ‘88) – now the program director for Ryerson’s Master of Digital Media program and a Computer Science professor in the Faculty of Science – recalls that “Geoff had a way of teaching deep mathematical ideas, and introducing them to you in a way you could understand.”

Ferworn recalls a particular lecture in which, to demonstrate the concept of optimization, Boyes asked the class if they ever noticed that there were often two rolls of toilet paper in public washrooms. Ferworn remembers Boyes explaining: “some people believe you should use the one with more paper first. Others, the one with less paper. That’s optimization.”

“What I learnt from Geoff, is that everything is optimization. Geoff’s courses and teaching really influenced the way I think about the world,” says Alex. “Back then however, I never thought I’d use optimization research,” he admits.

Like Boyes before him, Ferworn too is a gifted professor. In 2013, he was named Canadian Science Slam champion by EURAXESS for his ability to communicate complex ideas in compelling ways. And in 2014, Partners In Research named him their Canadian Technology Ambassador for his body of work and outreach activities.

Ferworn credits Boyes with shaping his academic career: “After working with a major telecommunications company, I went back to school to do my masters and PhD. And I have Geoff Boyes to thank for that.”

And now, thanks to his planned gift, generations of graduate students to come will have the benefit of Boyes’ help.


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