For the love of math

 In Donor Stories, News
Professor’s delight in mathematics began in childhood

By Rowena Tchao

As a young boy Paul Casillas was full of curiosity. He enjoyed building mechanical and scientific devices, and even had a rudimentary workshop and laboratory in his parents’ basement by the age of seven.

Paul Casillas, left helps a few math students figure out an equation.

Paul Casillas, left, helps a few math students figure out an equation.

He enrolled in shop classes in junior high school—metal fabrication, wood shop, drafting, and electronics—and to this day decades later continues to build projects in his woodshop.

As Casillas transitioned into high school, he completed his first cross-disciplinary project merging ideas from his history and calculus classes. The project got him completely hooked on mathematics. His passion grew throughout his undergraduate career, while his graduate work prepared him for a teaching career in mathematics.

Casillas’s career has taken him from Tempe High School in Arizona, to the University of Oregon and Southern Oregon State College. He eventually interviewed with Clark College and knew from the moment he set foot on campus this is exactly where he wanted to be.

“When I interviewed here the members of the hiring committee seemed to know the students and campus very well. I had a good feeling about the people and what was happening here. It seemed like the Math department was on the move and that they wanted to improve and not just maintain the status quo. I remember telling my future wife that if I wasn’t offered a job at Clark, I still wouldn’t mind going back and just hanging out with the Math faculty. Their demeanor and good cheer left quite an impression on me.”

Casillas joined the Math faculty in the fall of 1990 and is now celebrating his 26th year at Clark. He still enjoys the college, his students, mathematics and teaching. He regularly supports students by encouraging them to fulfill their dreams.

“I like to help people, but you also want to help people who help themselves. I think part of it is loyalty to my profession, but a large part of it is helping students who are working hard to improve their own lives. We want students to know that someone values their ability, goals and hard work. In the case of our students, we believe in them,” he said.

Helping students both in the classroom and through financial support are ways Casillas assists individuals with their goals.

“Everybody needs a leg up, everybody needs help at some point. Every successful person has gotten help along the way. If you can help people better their lives, why not? I’m in the position to be able to do that right now, in terms of time and other resources and I’m happy to help wherever I can,” he said.

Time and time again Casillas recognizes how private support transforms students’ lives. He has watched his students become professional mathematicians, engineers, teachers, health care professionals and even NFL players with the help of education and financial support.


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