ethington-2Dr. Donald T. Ethington,
Chair, Department of Mathematics, Professor of Mathematics
Phone: 434-791-5725
Office: Danville Hall 105 B

Dr. Ethington enjoys the brilliant, beautiful, and challenging ideas one encounters in mathematics on a daily basis and he enjoys working with the many wonderful students at Averett, helping them mature into young mathematicians who are able to learn on their own by the time they graduate.

He believes that one learns mathematics by doing mathematics on a regular basis. He gives students ample opportunity to show what they know.  In his opinion, the analytical skills one develops and uses in mathematics are not unlike those used when analyzing a poem, short story, play, or a novel. In other words, these skills have universal application. He particularly enjoys hearing from former students about how Averett has made a difference in their lives. Dr. Ethington was the first recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Member award in 1987-88 and received it again in 2003-2004, becoming the first two-time recipient of the award. 

Question: How strong is your intuition? Can you always rely on it?  Consider the following problem: Suppose the earth is a perfect sphere, with a perfectly smooth surface, and you wrap a piece of wire around the equator, obtaining a circle. Take this open circle of wire, weld 3 feet of additional wire to it to form another circle. Then, using small sticks, prop up the new circle of wire uniformly off the ground around the equator. Here is the big question: Can a chicken walk under the wire? (Translation: How high off the ground is the wire?) What does your intuition tell you? What does the mathematics tell you?  A related problem: Do a similar thing with a basketball, a piece of wire, and still add 3 feet. Take the chicken, put stickum on its feet, and stick the chicken on the basketball. Now, can the chicken walk under the wire on the basketball? Hmmm?

Doctor of Philosophy, Mathematics, University of Georgia. Dissertation directed by Dr. Thomas Brahana.

Master of Science, Mathematics, Mississippi State University. Thesis directed by Dr. Robert Heller.

Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics and English, Centre College (of Kentucky).


Algebra and analysis.


Lemery_SteveSteve Lemery,
Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

Phone: 434-791-5724
Office: Frith Hall 424

“I know I’m a geek,” says Professor Steve Lemery, but he can’t help it. It began with a pencil in the fifth grade. “When I was in elementary school, I won a pencil prize for reciting prime numbers up to 100. I’ve been a math geek ever since.”

He also realizes that people like him (yes, “geeks”) often prefer to be on their own, and he helps get his students past that. “I have my students work in small groups, specifically to avoid falling into the natural isolation tendency of the discipline. I have them go to the board often to explain things, basically making informal presentations. Eventually, some do honors presentations in Math.”

He mentions that he had a couple of foreign students — one from Asia and one from a country that used to be in the Soviet Union — who “began as shy and geeky, isolated, and by the time we finished with them they were speaking in class, involved in clubs, doing things like helping out at Homecoming events. Some really high-achieving high school students can go to almost any college or university and succeed. Many of our students come here and thrive, whereas they would not do as well at other schools.”

If you ask an Averett student who Lemery is, the likely answer will be, “The Skittles Prof.” See, he does this thing with Skittles or M&Ms …  “We use candy with letters on one side. Shake ’em up and pour them out, then eat [Yes!] the ones with a letter showing. Repeat the process with the ones remaining, and just keep doing it. Plot all the numbers, and the data form a curving diminishing pattern. With modern calculators, you can plug in the data points and get the equation that describes the phenomenon.”

He explains that the Skittles procedure has many applications. You can do a similar thing, for instance, with the numbers for people who have had this year’s cold. Plot all of it, and you have a mathematical analysis for use in epidemiology. Plus, you’ve had a good bit of candy.

Master of Science, Mathematics, University of Arizona

Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics, Southern Illinois University


Osborne-2937Susan E. Osborne,
Associate Professor of Mathematics

Phone: 434-791-5708
Office: Davenport 105B

Mrs. Osborne is always seeking new tools for her toolbox. Not hammers, pliers and other physical tools, but mathematical principles and concepts. These tools are problem solving tools that can be applied in businesses and industries of all types. What can these mathematical tools do?  They can allow a superstore to set lower prices than any other store, determine the best possible location for a new fire station, or design a box that holds a specific volume but uses the least material.  They can schedule workers for a set of tasks, determine the best design for waiting lines in a bank, improve the quality of products through quality control and much more.  Can every problem be solved?  This depends on what you mean by a solution. Sometimes we can accept an approximate answer as good enough rather than spend an enormous amount of time to obtain the exact solution.

Occasionally, a problem can be particularly difficult to solve and, perhaps, it is even impossible to determine an exact answer.  When this is the case, the applied mathematician can build a mathematical model and use technology such as computer simulations to find an acceptable solution. Computers can run the simulations hundreds and even thousands of times in a brief time frame. Using statistics, the simulations can give a very good estimated answer.

Mathematics is an essential key in today’s business and industries. Filling your toolbox with good mathematical concepts can put you ahead of others in the workforce. Of course, just like with physical tools, one must start with simple tools and work toward using “power” tools. So come and get started discovering a new set of tools for your toolbox!

Master of Operations Research, Engineering, North Carolina State University.

Master of Arts, Mathematics, Wake Forest University.

Bachelor of Science, Mathematics and Business Administration/Accounting, Averett University.

Diploma, General Electronics, Danville Community College


Stephen Davidson
Instructor, Mathematics

Phone: 434-791-7243
Office: Frith Hall 416

“Own yourself.”  That is the mantra that Stephen Davidson lives by. He lived by it as a child who proudly wore wrestling and comic book t-shirts to school. He lives by it as an adult who proudly wears wrestling and comic book t-shirts to holiday dinners. And he wants to pass along that message to anyone else who will listen. And if teaching Math is the conduit for that message, then he gets to work with math – which he loves – and he gets to make a difference, at the same time. That’s his goal.

What does it mean to “own yourself”? On the surface, it seems simple: don’t be ashamed of who you are. Even better, don’t be afraid of who you are. Others don’t matter. Only you matter. So, be yourself totally and completely. So, yes, this naturally includes expressing oneself honestly. It includes not hiding oneself for fear of others’ reactions. But it also includes not hiding from oneself out of fear or apathy. Don’t hold yourself back and don’t make excuses to do so. Anything can be justified except for fear-based justifications.

Stephen knows that not everyone loves Math. He knows that not every student who walks into his classroom is going to use it on a daily basis, once the class has ended. Very few will, to be honest. And his response to this is, “So what?” That’s a justification. It’s an excuse to hide from oneself because of a fear of the material. Nobody would voice dissent towards learning something if they truly believed they were capable of learning it. And he’s here to tell you to quit hiding, because capable you are.  All he asks is to be trusted. To be listened to. Success will not always come quickly. But, with trust and hard work, it will come for anyone who wants it. But it’s important to not only trust him, but to trust yourself, as well. “Own yourself.” You might be surprised by what follows.


tuckerDr. Gary Tucker,
Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

Phone: 434-791-5709
Office: Davenport Hall 106

America landed a man on the moon and created “Star Trek.” Those two things were more than enough to get Dr. Gary Tucker interested in science when he was just a boy.

He went to K-Mart when he was in middle school, and he found chemistry books for $1. He bought and devoured those. Then he found they had books on mathematics and calculus. Completed both of them.

When he got to high school, he took a geometry class. Guess what book he found at home — yes, geometry.  The book at home taught him how a formal geometry proof should look, and when he turned in his first proof, it was perfect. The geometry teacher sent him to the back of the room — in a good way: “You just sit back there and work on your own. You’ll be fine.”  He knew he had found his calling.

When Tucker was a sophomore at Averett (then called Averett College), the school began offering Computer Science. That was a natural fit for him, and he is now a Professor of Computer Science.  Although he clearly loves (and teaches) both Math and Computer Science, he does issue an interesting warning: “Math books don’t get obsolete, but computer things do. It’s Windows 7 now, but it will be 8 when they graduate and 9 about 10 minutes later. So I give them the Google Earth view of Computer Science. If they want to drill down, into the current details of today, that’s up to them. Definitely the most important thing I do is teach them how to learn.”

He also works to develop his students’ presentation skills: “Every other Friday, they do presentations, summarizing news stories to the class. We do that in every upper-level IT course, because if you’re getting a degree in Computer Science, you’ll likely be the head of a Computer Science group someday. That means you’ll need to stand up and talk in public, asking for budget money, justifying your requests, presenting a case.”  Tucker currently is expanding internship opportunities for the Math and Computer Science students, and their presentation skills will likely be put to use there, even before graduation.


Additional study at Nova Southeastern University, Computer Science

Doctor of Philosophy, Mathematics, Duke University

Master of Arts, Mathematics, Duke University

Bachelor of Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, Biology/Chemistry, Averett College


10+ years in Internet security; 15+ years teaching


Keeping Children Safe on the Internet; General Internet Safety: Worms, Viruses, Malicious Software; Information Privacy; Applying Mathematics to Biology; Using Technology to Teach Mathematics

Community Involvement, Volunteer Activities and Professional Affiliations:

Southern Piedmont Technology Council, Secretary

Forest Hills Elementary PTO, Second Vice President

Danville Public Schools, Parent Advisory Council

Pittsylvania Baptist Association, finance team

Averett Christian Student Union, Faculty Advisor

Interim Pastor at Shermont Baptist Church