University remembers Sally’s dedication

Students recall Sally’s enthusiastic teaching.

By William Rhee

Family, close friends, colleagues, and students of math professor Paul Sally, Jr., congregated on Saturday to cherish Sally’s life and accomplishments in a memorial service held at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Hyde Park.

Sally passed away on December 30 at the age of 80. A professor at the University since 1965, Sally served as chairman of the mathematics department from 1977 to 1980 and was the department’s director of undergraduate studies for 30 years.

His brother, Francis, viewed Sally as a “true Renaissance man” who could be described by the words “courage, determination, perseverance, and honor.” Referring to Sally’s battle with diabetes since the age of 15, he said: “how he accomplished everything physically and mentally over the years is a real tribute to his courage and to his determination…it carried him through with his intellectual abilities, what he did at the University of Chicago, and what he’s done in the field of mathematics.”

In addition to tributes and Scriptural readings from Sally’s family, the service featured remembrances from his colleagues, including Diane Herrmann, the co-director of Undergraduate Studies in Mathematics and a Senior Lecturer at the University. Herrmann co-founded the Young Scholars Program with Sally in 1988, a program that offers free classes for gifted seventh through 12th grade students, mostly from Chicago Public Schools, to enrich and strengthen their understanding of mathematics.

“As a teacher, mentor, and colleague, Paul had no peer,” she said. “I know how he cherished his family, how he valued loyalty above all else.”

Herrmann affirmed Sally’s love for basketball, recalling how he expected her to report the scores of Boston Celtics playoff games to him while he was abroad.

Following the service, a reception and luncheon was held in Eckhart Hall, home to the mathematics department. A slideshow featuring pictures of Sally and his family was presented upstairs in Ryerson 352, which Sally had nicknamed “The Barn.”

At the reception, several of Sally’s students shared their memories, referencing his notoriously rigorous classes and his enthusiasm for teaching.

“[His] classes were always very hard, but…he always wanted to help you and ran extra office hours,” fourth-year Weston Ungemach said.

“He wasn’t just teaching math. He was teaching an attitude,” fourth-year Benjamin Gammage said.

Sally famously had students address him with “Yo Sally,” which, according to his brother Francis, were his two favorite words. Francis used those words in closing his tribute to his brother: “I will say goodbye Paul, God bless you, rest in peace, and Yo Sally.”

Sally is survived by his wife, Judy, and his three sons, David, Steven, and Paul III, and their families.