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The Totterdale Brothers are Helping Increase Math Proficiency

Written by Greg Totterdale, a member of Eberly College's visiting committee. Totterdale graduated from Eberly with a BA in Mathematics in 1972 and a MS in Statistics in 1974.

Greg Totterdale American students have fallen behind their international peers in STEM disciplines (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Unfortunately, reports have shown that an overall lack of proficiency has existed for quite some time. To help put this in perspective, results of a 2018 exam administered by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) placed the United States in the middle of the pack internationally in math proficiency. Every three years, hundreds of thousands of students take this assessment. Seventy-nine countries participated in the 2018 assessment.

In the early 2000s, there was a great deal of discussion on the need for a stronger emphasis on STEM Education. Headlines at the time indicated that the United States was ranked 16th in the world in STEM proficiency. While there was evidence to suggest our dominance in STEM education may have been slipping, I found it difficult to believe that the nation, which had sent men to the moon and brought them home safely in 1969, could have fallen behind 15 other nations. After all, the USA is still the only nation to have accomplished this feat!

An abstract from a Congressional Research Service Report around that time stated “There is a growing concern that the United States is not preparing a sufficient number of students, teachers, and practitioners in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A large majority of secondary school students fail to reach proficiency in math and science and many are taught by teachers lacking adequate subject matter knowledge.”

A more recent report from the Congressional Research Service titled Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: An Overview stated that teachers, who have an advanced degree in the subject they teach, positively affect student achievement. This report goes on to state that many mathematics and science teachers in the USA lack advanced degrees in the subjects they teach.

In 2002 my brother, Rob, and I decided to establish a memorial for my father at WVU. We set-up the William R. Totterdale Scholarship Fund as an endowment in the WVU Foundation on December 31, 2002 to encourage U.S. citizens to pursue a degree in mathematics, statistics, or industrial mathematics & statistics in the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences. The selection of recipients has been based on merit to promote excellence, with a preference for students from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Our overall goal was to encourage students, who are analytically inclined, to pursue an education and career in a STEM related field.   

Our father, William R. Totterdale, passed away in 1997. He was one of five brothers born and raised in Martins Ferry, Ohio and a member of the “Greatest Generation”. He grew up during the Great Depression and served his country in the U.S. Army from 1945-1947. In 1945, he married our mother, Dorothy F. Rinkes, who grew up on the other side of the Ohio River in Elm Grove, a suburb of Wheeling, West Virginia.

Our parents both lost their fathers in the early 1940s – our dad’s father passed away in 1943 and our mother lost her father on the day that she was to graduate from high school in 1944. Both of our parents had hoped to go to college, but this was not in the cards for either of them. Our father worked in the building trades industry – initially working in his family’s business at Totterdale Brothers Plumbing Supply in Martins Ferry and then in construction through Plumbers & Pipefitters Union Local 83.

Our parents lost their first child at birth in 1949. I was born in 1950 and Rob was born three years later in 1953. Our father would tell us, “Do your best in whatever you choose to do in life. No one can expect more, and you should not settle for less from yourself”. While neither of our parents had the opportunity to go to college themselves, ensuring that my brother, Rob, and I had the opportunity to pursue a college education was of paramount importance to them!  

 Totterdale brothers with their parents outside the Coliseum on graduation day

Rob and I grew up in Wheeling and attended WVU. We went on to earn degrees from the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences – I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics with minor emphasis in Economics in 1972 and a Master of Science degree in Statistics in 1974. Rob received a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics with minor emphasis in Accounting in 1974. Rob also earned a Master of Science degree in Competitive Intelligence and a Doctorate in Information Systems and Communications from Robert Morris University in 2009.  

Mathematics and statistics provided the foundation for our success in the business world. Our education at WVU enabled us to develop our analytical capabilities and become “problem solvers”. My professional career focused on Strategic Marketing Analysis & Consulting while Rob’s career focused on Business Management & Information Systems in business and then later on in academia.

The value of the endowment has grown over the past 19.5 years through on-going contributions to the scholarship fund and net gains in fund investments over time. The initial scholarship award was granted to a single recipient in 2003. Five to eight students now receive a scholarship award each year with annual distributions of $10,000 or more across recipients. Initially, only undergraduate students were eligible to receive this scholarship. This was expanded to also include graduate students in the same disciplines in 2006.

In a few months, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the William R. Totterdale Scholarship and the WVU Foundation will announce award recipients for the 2022-2023 academic year.

My brother and I are pleased with the growth of the William R. Totterdale Scholarship Fund and are proud to have been able to help students pursue their dreams at WVU. However, the challenge continues:

  - A new global ranking for STEM Education was recently released which reported the United States has dropped to 24th in the world,

  - There is a nationwide shortage of qualified teachers in STEM disciplines in both junior high schools and high schools, and

  - The shortage in qualified teachers in mathematics is particularly severe!

Let’s Go Mountaineers!

Photo of Greg Totterdale with his wife

Before retiring, Greg Totterdale (photographed above with his wife) served as President & CEO of The Totterdale Group, Inc., a strategic marketing analysis & consulting firm, and Managing Partner of The Totterdale Group II, LLP, a limited partnership of marketing service firms, both based in the Dallas, Texas metropolitan area. He graduated from the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences with a BA in Mathematics in 1972 and a MS in Statistics in 1974. He continued his formal education at the University of Oklahoma in Computer Simulation while serving on active duty in the United States Air Force.

He currently serves on the Visiting Committee for both the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences and the new School of Mathematical and Data Sciences. Greg and his brother, Rob, have established four endowed funds in the WVU Foundation. This includes the Rob & Greg Totterdale Arts & Sciences Fund in 2000, the William R. Totterdale Scholarship in the Eberly College in 2002, the Dorothy F. Totterdale Scholarship in the Business School in 2016, and the Totterdale Freedom Scholarship in the Eberly College in 2022. The Totterdale Freedom Scholarship provides financial support for a West Virginia student who is an incoming freshman, has been active in West Virginia 4-H, and has demonstrated a commitment to community service. Recipients, who maintain a specified cumulative GPA, will be eligible to receive this scholarship for four years of undergraduate study.