Bellarmine University / Heritage Society / Endowed Scholarships / Dr. John A. Van De Walle Endowed Scholarship

Dr. John A. Van De Walle Endowed Scholarship

As a member of the Bellarmine debate team, John Van De Walle met a young woman named Sharon at one of the tournaments, where she had been asked to be a timer. By senior year they were engaged.

John was immediately sure about Sharon, but his education plans ended up taking a different turn. He originally wanted to be an engineer. But, Sharon says, “It was Dr. James Leahy, a Bellarmine math professor, who changed John’s thinking about engineering, and ultimately changed his life.” John graduated cum laude from Bellarmine in 1965 with a degree in mathematics.

John earned a scholarship to St. Louis University in math and obtained a master’s degree, then enrolled in a doctoral program in math education at Ohio State. In the last year of the doctoral program he worked in a school with children, and, Sharon says, “His life changed again.” This led him to write and publish the Van De Walle Professional Mathematics Series.

Dr. Van De Walle would become one of the most renowned mathematics educators in the country and the author of Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally, which, in its seventh edition, is the leading resource in the United States and Canada for teaching K-8 mathematics. Sensitive to the feelings of women coming back to school who were intimidated by math courses, he used the royalties to create a scholarship specifically for such students.

He retired in 2002, but continued to write and work with teachers to promote mathematics education. He always ended his presentations to teachers with this advice: “Believe in your kids.”

John died suddenly in December 2006. To honor his memory and the place where he discovered his calling, Sharon created the Dr. John A. Van De Walle Endowed Scholarship. It provides financial assistance to undergraduate students who, like John, “just love math.”