Francis Su, mathematics professor and acting chair of the Department of Mathematics, has been named to the newly established Benediktsson-Karwa Endowed Faculty Chair, established with a gift from Harvey Mudd College alumnus John Benediktsson ’01 and his wife, Rajashree Karwa, of Incline Village, Nev.
“As a nationally prominent mathematician and as a dedicated, creative and very successful educator, Francis is an excellent inaugural appointment to the Benediktsson-Karwa Chair,” said Jeffrey Groves, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “I’m delighted that John and Rajashree’s generosity will support Francis’ work specifically and our Department of Mathematics generally.”
Endowed faculty chairs are among the highest recognition accorded to a faculty member. An endowed chair honors and recognizes the distinction of outstanding faculty while providing invaluable support for salary, research, teaching or service activities.
“I’m very honored to hold the Benediktsson-Karwa professorship, which is of enormous benefit to the College and the Mathematics Department,” said Su, a member of the HMC faculty since 1996 and acting chair of the Department of Mathematics. “I’m especially pleased because I know John and Rajashree to be wonderful people. They greatly value the work of the College in the lives of students, and they have exhibited in their own work the central role that mathematics plays in any scientific or technical field. Their generosity will leave a lasting impact on the mathematics program and many generations of Mudders.”
Su’s work has been recognized by the Mathematical Association of America with the Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member (2004) and the Merten M. Hasse Prize for outstanding mathematical exposition (2001). He has been awarded two National Science Foundation grants that utilize methods from combinatorics, topology and geometry to study problems in mathematical economics and the social sciences; in particular, problems related to voting and fair allocation. In addition to his teaching and research activities, Su served as vice-president of the Mathematical Association of America and is the creator of the award-winning Math Fun Facts website.
Benediktsson and Karwa are both engineers and have productive careers in the financial industry. Benediktsson, a member of the HMC Board of Trustees, graduated from HMC with an engineering degree and an interest in computers and economics. Karwa holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering with honors from Cummins College of Engineering, India.
“Mathematics is a foundation for success in science and technology fields,” said Benediktsson. “I’ve found math to be useful for understanding data and gaining a competitive edge in mastering its implications. I’ve seen repeatedly the professional advantages that a solid math background can provide, particularly in the field of finance.”
Benediktsson has been involved in running several electronic trading firms, managing their technical growth from small startups to mature, successful enterprises. Prior to working in finance, he spent several years as a senior engineer for a media technology firm. These days, he describes himself as an “engineer, entrepreneur, trader, technologist and angel investor.”
During his early years of employment, Benediktsson said that he realized some of his success was due to his “Mudd education, the fantastic professors and the close friendships with classmates.” He decided to reconnect to the College and, in 2008, accepted the offer to join the board of trustees where he could contribute to the management of the College. He serves on the Investment and Board Affairs committees.
“At Harvey Mudd College, math forms an essential part of the Core curriculum and is a critical component to the curriculums of every major offered. Rajashree and I believe that supporting the math department supports every department to the benefit of all students.”