C.C. MacDuffee Award

1967 – John S. Gold

“Fellow members of Pi Mu Epsilon, honored guests: We have come together tonight for many reasons but none more important than the next event on our program.

“Presidents of an organization such as ours come and go, but they live on, on the back of the printed copies of our Constitution and By-Laws. This is not the case with the veritable servant of our fraternity. Any interested individual can ascertain from a copy of our constitution that Professor E. D. Roe, Jr., was our organization’s first president (then called Director General) but there is no reference thereon that Dr. John Steiner Gold, our honoree, served as Secretary-General with Professor Roe. It was during these early formative years of Pi Mu Epsilon that the size of an Institution seemed to be synonymous with interest in a strong Mathematics Department and thus, Dr. Gold was instructed to discourage smaller colleges when they sought information concerning the possibility of a chapter.

“Our Constitution booklet carries the names Ingold, Owens, Evans, Milne, Fort, MacDuffee, but no mention that our honoree saw service with all of these. Dr. Gold was elected secretary in 1927 and served continuously until 1948, the longest term of any elected officer. In 1936 he worked arduously and with inborn devotion to revise the constitution, placing emphasis upon quality rather than size alone. He saw Pi Mu Epsilon Chapters swell from 14 when he took office in 1927 to almost 50 in 1948 when he chose not to seek reelection.

“While we all find it difficult to accept the decision of a devoted servant to step out, we must, nevertheless, see some justification. As on of the main driving forces behind the society, Dr. Gold had seen it develop from one or two new chapters per year, each installing itself, preparing its own certificates, paying no dues, ordering seals from the Director General (at one cent per) to one which required an initiation ceremony usually attended by the Secretary, required membership certificates, individually written (in the fine Spencerian hand of Mrs. Gold), with ribbon and seal affixed by hand. He maintained detailed office records in the centralized headquarters of the fraternity from 1936 until his retirement. During much of Dr. Gold’s period of service there were no national dues but the head office accepted donations of one or two dollars per year from each chapter if the chapter took the hint and voluntarily contributed. In 1936 the seal of the Fraternity was placed in the hands of the Secretary Treasurer General, the new office created by the combination of the offices of Secretary, Treasurer, and Librarian. Each new member now was charged a fee of 25 cents, which barely covered Dr. Gold’s cash outlay for certificate, seal, and ribbons. During the few minutes we had together prior to the beginning of our program tonight he also recalled some experiences such as an all night bus trip to clarify a point, and a trip on a bus which became snowbound and thus caused him to relay the initiation ceremony by phone thereby accomplishing the installation of a new Chapter.

“Dr. Gold relates that money was scarce in the early 1930’s and interest in mathematics also lagged. In case some of you think that a quarter wasn’t much during those years, I must add that it was made of silver and I know some college men who survived on 25 to 30 cents per day for food and this included between meal snacks and night caps. These were also the years during which high school principals were replacing mathematics courses with manual training courses. This was truly, for some, an unimaginably rough period and it is probably no exaggeration to say that except for the stamina, the perseverance, the unforgettable belief in the value of recognition of a budding young mathematician, and the unregrettable devotion of many hours during 50 per cent of his active, productive, lifetime — we may not today be aware of Pi Mu Epsilon, it having long since slipped into oblivion. With leaders like Dr. Gold, the World of Mathematics scholars was not to lose conscious knowledge of this organization.

“To me, Dr. Gold always exemplified aptness, unselfishness, and foresight, in his decisions for the fraternity. It was he who foresaw not only the possibility but also the necessity of a national publication, and this at a time barely following World War II.

“Tonight we could honor others but none more deserving. Tonight we could read names from our roll of the many servants of Pi Mu Epsilon, but none more devoted. We could recount the accomplishments of president after president but scarcely a combination equals his indulgence. And for humility he has no equal.

“Dr. Gold honors us tonight in accepting Pi Mu Epsilon’s highest award, the C. C. MacDuffee Award. It was our intentions that this award say simply enough to anyone, “This is recognition of genuine unselfish service.” We intended that it be elegant enough to grace the finest wall and distinguished enough to become a cherished possession. We know, members of Pi Mu Epsilon, this is a tribute to a deserving member who did not labor that he saw a medal in sight but for the promotion of those true scholarly ideals he saw foremost in our organization.

“In recognition of the contribution Mrs. Gold has made, both in sharing her husband’s time with us and for the uncounted hours she spent in cutting ribbons, licking seals, and applying that long lost art of Spencerian penmanship, I am going to ask that she too stand and share in the presentation.

“Dr. Gold, you honor us tonight and you both leave us forever in your debt.”

– J. C. Eaves (at the Annual Banquet, Toronto, August 29, 1967)