After 24 marvelous years as a faculty member in the ORIE Department, I left Cornell in the summer of 2007 to preside over the Colombia Barranquilla Mission of the Mormon Church. My wife Berta and I spent three years on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. We were based in Barranquilla and travelled extensively to Cartagena, Santa Marta, Valledupar, Sincelejo and Monteria. Our primary role was to support 180 Mormon missionaries. We were responsible for their spiritual and temporal well-being, and for training them and supervising their work. We also had responsibilities for training and supporting some of the local Church leaders.
Most of our missionaries came from South America. Every Spanish-speaking South American country was represented. They came from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds and were raised in a variety of settings, including modern cities, the Amazon jungle, the Andean highlands where Spanish is not spoken, etc. Almost all of them were between 19 and 25 years old.
For us, this experience was both profoundly rewarding and personally transforming. In our experience nothing is more gratifying than helping a person to grow in the joy and happiness that they experience, watching them achieve worthy, personal goals, and seeing them prepare effectively for their future lives. The opportunity to devote three years exclusively to the needs of others, and to activities that were intensely spiritual in nature, was at richly rewarding and profoundly transforming.
We returned from Colombia in July, 2010. Since then I have been a Professor of Mathematics at Brigham Young University. Brigham Young University is a unique place, and I am very happy here.
In July 2012 I became Chair of the mathematics department and I am excited about what the future holds.