June 26, 2014

GSU Endowed Chair of Mathematics Dies at 87

A valued teacher, mentor, producer of black mathematicians leaves Grambling State University community saddened

The GSU family morns the loss of Dr. Abdulalim A. Shabazz, a distinguished professor of mathematics and endowed chair with a national reputation.
The GSU family morns the loss of Dr. Abdulalim A.
Shabazz, a distinguished professor of mathematics
and endowed chair with a national reputation.

Grambling State University Media Bureau

GRAMBLING, La. – Abdulalim A. Shabazz, a distinguished professor at Grambling State University with a national reputation, has died. He had been hospitalized at Northern Louisiana Medical Center less than two weeks ago.

“I’ve known Dr. Shabazz for many years,” said Grambling State President Frank G. Pogue. “He represented the kind of excellence Grambling is known for, and for the university it means a great deal that he was with us.”

Pogue met Shabazz when Pogue was a graduate student at Atlanta University. He said his roommate, a math student, “idolized” Shabazz.

Connie Walton, GSU’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, said it was 2005 when the university hired Shabazz as a consultant to help the faculty restructure the mathematics courses, eventually increasing a standing student pass rate to above 80 percent. She said he challenged faculty and students to aim higher.

“Dr. Shabazz always said it is important for African American students to see African American teachers with a Ph.D. in mathematics,” said Walton.

Pogue recently visited Shabazz in the hospital. Shabazz passed away on Wednesday (June 25).

After his consulting work at GSU, Shabazz formally joined the Gramblinite family in 2007 as an endowed chair for mathematics. He was the first to hold this position at Grambling State University. His career included time at Clark Atlanta University and Lincoln University, among other higher education institutions. Walton said he is widely credited with training nearly half of all African Americans who have earned doctorate degrees in mathematics in the United States.

President Bill Clinton awarded Shabazz with a national mentor award in September 2000 for   excellence in science, mathematics and engineering mentoring in 2000. He also received the National Association of Mathematicians Distinguished Service Award for his years of mentoring and teaching excellence. 

Walton said Shabazz was a great example of a master teacher, being active in the campus and wider communities, representing the university at national and international events and regularly mentoring junior faculty and students.

Rod Seals, a GSU graduate student, was one of Shabazz’s recent students.  “I met him the semester before last. Everybody was telling me go talk to Dr. Shabazz, that he was a good guy, very reserved man with knowledge, brilliant, a humble man,” said Seals, 39, of Homer, Louisiana. “He always wanted to know how I was doing, and more about me. … He was very kind and I’m very thankful for it.”

“Dr. Shabazz mentored and guided me through two math graduate courses,” added Seals. “He was a man of high integrity and very courageous. He stood up for what he believed in; which in part, was to support the success of each and every student in all aspects of their lives, especially math. … He shared his time and his wisdom with me humbly, and for that I will be forever grateful.”

Shabazz was born to  Lonnie Cross in Bessemer, Alabama, on May 22, 1927 and earned a bachelor’s in mathematics and chemistry from Lincoln University in 1949, a master’s in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1951 and a doctorate of in mathematics from Cornell University in 1955.

Services are pending.

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Media Contact:
Will Sutton




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