Graves' teaching inspired
Cochran to become an assistant professor of
mathematics at the University of Tennessee-Martin. "Dr. Graves'
enthusiasm is contagious," he says. "When he enters the
classroom, he brings with him an excitement about mathematics
that can easily be felt."
"I think you have to be engaged and excited about
the subject," Graves says. "Using models and demonstrations
helps students see the mathematics as a tool they will
actually need as engineers or scientists."
Lea Dekker (EE, 2011), an applications engineer at
National Instruments, says Graves was always in tune with the
needs of his students. "If his students looked lost, he'd pick
up on that and change to a different teaching style," she
says. "His door was always open, too. Sometimes it seems like
he was the first professor to arrive and the last one to
"Dr. Graves' passion for his work was truly evident
every day," adds Phil Banet (MA, 1991), a senior actuary at
Allstate Insurance. "I don't think I ever remember him having
an 'off' day when we had class."
It's the reaction of students that Graves finds truly
energizing. "The most satisfying and rewarding part of being a
professor is seeing students' eyes light up when they
understand the mathematics I am trying to teach."
math students to imagine they're working in a group that will
design a robot that plays basketball.
"The robot is going to emulate shooting a
basketball," he stated. "Your job is to figure out what math is
required so programmers can make the robot make a free throw every
time. What are the parameters you have to give the programmers and
the mechanical engineers?"
This kind of real-world example makes Graves one of
the best in undergraduate math education-and his students
appreciate his work.
"Dr. Graves could help you visualize difficult
material," says John Cochran (ChE/MA, 1997; MSChE, 1999). "I
remember we were talking about gradients, and he started the class
by telling us we were going on a field trip. He proceeded to
us outside with a meter stick, and showed us what the
gradient really meant from a physical perspective."