Lucy Thrower, assistant professor and coordinator of the Francis Marion University mathematics lab, retired June 30, after 30 years of teaching at the university.
Retirement doesn’t mean she’s leaving FMU, though, just re-directing some of her time and talents.
Thrower, who has taught part- and full-time through the years, at first the University of South Carolina at Florence and then at Francis Marion College, will decrease her teaching load in the fall, calling it retirement. She will teach two math classes in the fall and fulfill campus committee responsibilities.
Her retired friends, Thrower says, assure her that “things” will fill up her spare time, and that she doesn’t need to worry about what she will do with any extra time she may have on her hands.
Thrower says she embarked on her “accidental career,” after graduating from the University of South Carolina as a teacher with a major in English and a math minor. Her mother persuaded her to further her education, telling her that “you never know what will come up.”
Her friends at USC told her if she minored in math as an education major, she’d never teach anything else. And she hasn’t. With the demand for math teachers, she has never wanted for a position.
Thrower graduated from college right after “the whole Sputnik thing,” she says, and math and science teachers were in great demand. She moved to Mississippi at the height of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, working to put her husband through graduate school (he later became a chemist at DuPont in Florence).
“If you saw Mississippi Burning,” she says, then you’ll understand the times in which she taught and lived. “It’s all true.”
Through the years, Thrower says, only terminology in the math books and some math notations have changed in the teaching of freshman math. Outside of that, she contends, teaching math today is the same as teaching math years ago when she started.
And Francis Marion students haven’t changed all that much either, she says.
“FMU students have always worked too much outside of the classroom,” she says. “That accounts for the slower rate of graduation when comparing FMU to other four-year institutions.”
Most FMU students from the immediate area work to pay for college and many don’t have the time to put into their studies that they should. Thrower believes that because many FMU students are the first in their families to go to college, some parents don’t understand the tremendous time needed for studies.
“Students shouldn’t work more than 12 hours a week,” she says. “It’s hard for some students to work and do well in their studies.”
Also, Thrower says, “When I first came to FMU, male students were highly motivated to keep their student deferments to military service. Today they’re not so motivated in the same way.”
Thrower has taught each semester since 1970 (less the two she took off to have a child). Better pull out the calculator to compute the number of students she has taught on the average. At the rate of 25 students per class, four courses per semester, four semesters per year, (including summer terms) for 30 years, Thrower has taught more than 12,000 FMU students, give or take a few. During that time she has taught, coached, encouraged, corrected, pushed and pulled students through freshman math at Francis Marion.