Making a difference

Sam Lesseig, professor of mathematics and computer sciences and coach of the women's golf team, has found the right formula for inspiring students to learn.

When Sam Lesseig was a junior in college at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, something happened that caused him to change his plans of becoming an engineer. He was assisting in teaching some high school students when a realization hit him. Lesseig recalls, "The experience was such that I decided that teaching is what I wanted to do in life." Combined with a natural aptitude for math, it is no surprise that his career path eventually led him to the position he holds today as a professor of math and computer science at Truman State University.

While attending college, Lesseig took several mathematics classes taught by Wilmont Toalson, a professor who had a talent for engaging his students in the art of thinking. "Toalson constantly tried to make learning a fun and interesting thing to do," says Lesseig, adding, "his most common statement was 'why'?; he always wanted the student to continue to pursue a question ¯ to never be satisfied with just an answer." Taking this advice to heart and following in the footsteps of his favorite instructor, Lesseig set out to be a teacher who could make a difference in the lives of his students. After receiving a master's degree from Kansas State University, Lesseig pursued additional graduate work at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, as well as Kent University. After a short stint teaching high school, he joined the Truman State University faculty in 1963.

Throughout more than 30 years of teaching at Truman, Lesseig has discovered some valuable lessons of his own. "Every student is a totally unique individual and, therefore, processes information and learns in their own way," says Lesseig, "and as a teacher, you have to try and find the way that works for that student." One of Lesseig's former students at Truman, Shelle (Palaski) Patterson ('89) has fond memories of sitting in Lesseig's classroom. "I remember that Mr. Lesseig taught us on our level, as opposed to over our heads," says Patterson, "he had great examples to help us understand difficult concepts and stimulate our thinking. To this day, Patterson still remembers Lesseig's sense of humor saying, "Who could forget his smile, he always made you feel welcome." Like Lesseig, Patterson went on to become an instructor and now teaches mathematics at the John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill.

On the Truman campus, Lesseig is well-known for his willingness to help students. His positive outlook on life is reflected in four basic philosophies that he strives to follow: 1) enjoy what you do, 2) treat everyone the way that you would like to be treated in the same situation, 3) be honest with others, and 4) try to make a difference.

When Lesseig is not teaching in the classroom, he can often be found on the golf course. He has served as the coach for the women's golf program at Truman since its inception and has been known to drop by the golf course before his morning classes to watch the players practice. His dedication to the team may not be apparent until you consider the fact that he teaches early-morning classes generally beginning at 7:30 a.m. This means that the even-earlier-morning golf practices usually start before dawn. Lesseig and his wife, Dee, often invite members of the golf team to their house on Sunday evening for dinner.

Lesseig is not the only family member with connections to Truman State University ¯ the entire Lesseig family has ties to the University. Dee previously taught in the nursing department, and their three children, Vance, Kristin and Corey, all graduated from Truman State University. Lesseig attributes any success in his life to his wife, "She has always been my support and my best friend," says Lesseig. "She has put up with my idiosyncrasies for over 35 years and there have been times that I have looked back at what I have done and know that without her support, it would not have happened."


Destination Paris

Art student, Matt Trego, spent a semester abroad studying in Paris.

Last August, after a long eight-hour flight that had begun in Chicago, Matt Trego finally landed in Paris, France. Trego, an art student at Truman State University, would be spending the next five months studying design in Paris.

Months earlier, Trego had been looking for a design school to attend for a semester, when he came across information on the Parson's School of Design located in Paris. With help from Truman's Center for International Education, Trego looked into the school, and soon began making arrangements to spend his next semester in Paris.

Trego began the fall semester at the Parson's School of Design along with 76 other students. The majority of the students at the school were European and about one-third were American. A handful of the students were visiting students like Trego. As a visiting student, Trego was able to take a variety of classes, including graphics design, photography, multimedia, and print-making. Although he had acquired some French before embarking on the trip, he enrolled in a French course. Trego also had the opportunity to take an art history course taught at the famous Louvre museum.

The faculty at Parson's consisted of a mix of French, American and English professors, and the classes at the school were all taught in English. For the most part, Trego found his classes to be similar to their American counterparts. "Inside the building, the setting was very American for most of my classes," Trego said, "however, in the design classes, the students were expected to do much more work on their own."

For Trego, the best part of his semester in Paris was the experience of living within the city known for its culture. He found a respectable apartment that he shared with a fellow visiting student from Boston. "When living in Paris, you not only learn more about their culture, but you also learn more about your own," says Trego. "Most Europeans think Americans are spoiled because of all the things we have," explains Trego, "but it is only because everything in the United States has been built from the ground up --- there is all this space and everything seems so large."

During his stay in the capital of the French nation, Trego saw many of the sights of Paris, and he also took trips to the resort cities of Nice and Monaco on the Mediterranean Sea. However, despite having five months to sight-see, Trego says, "I found myself running around trying to see as much as possible right before I left."

Now, back in the United States, Trego has resumed classes on the Truman campus and will graduate in May. He is keeping in touch with several of his former European classmates, and has been e-mailing across the Atlantic Ocean. Someday Trego hopes to return to the city where he says he not only learned about the European way of life, but he also learned more about himself.



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Spring 1999- Vol. 3. No. 3

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