Gustie of the Week: Tom LoFaro

Amelia Dewberry & Willa Brown-

This week’s Gustie of the Week is Clifford M. Swanson Professor of Mathematics, Thomas LoFaro. He is also the department chair for Math, Computer Science, and Statistics.

LoFaro earned his B.A. and M.S. in Mathematics from the University of Missouri and his Ph.D. from Boston University. However, he did not always plan to major in math: “I started out pre-med but I learned that I would need to memorize a lot of stuff in organic chem and anatomy.  I never had to memorize math, I could just work it out again if necessary.”

LoFaro has been teaching at Gustavus for over 20 years. Before coming here, “I circled the country from Boston University to Washington State University to Harvey Mudd in LA,” LoFaro said. He teaches all the math classes offered here at Gustavus, but he thinks MCS-222 (Multivariable Calculus) is his favorite. He explained, “It is incredibly geometric, and I’ve always loved mathematics with a visual component.”

He is a beloved teacher at Gustavus. He occasionally teaches 100-level classes, one of those being MCS-115 (Nature of Math). This is a course students often take to fulfill their mathematics general education requirement. One student, Junior Willa Brown, had him for this course last year. “He was such a fun teacher. On the first day of class, he said ‘My name is Thomas LoFaro. You can call me Professor, Tom, or even TLo.’ For the rest of the semester, anytime anyone needed him, you would hear echoes of ‘Hey, TLo!’ He has a very welcoming, humorous presence.” She said that coming into Gustavus, she “… hated math so much. But [LoFaro] made me look forward to going to a math class; something I never thought possible!”

In his free time, LoFaro loves to fly fish. “There is nothing I would rather do than be on a trout stream with my fly rod,” he said. He often fly fishes with Recreation Program Coordinator Mark Hanson. Hanson described LoFaro as “honest, thoughtful, and loyal.”

The two have known each other for a long time and started fishing together 12 years ago. They also play golf together when possible.

“Our shared value in fly fishing and appreciation of rivers, lakes, and natural environments drives our time together,” Hanson said. Their passion has taken them on many fishing trips in Minnesota, Montana, and Missouri, but they have certainly talked about fishing in other places.

One of Hanson’s favorite memories with LoFaro was during a trip to Montana. “We were on the Madison River a few years ago fishing a couple hundred yards apart and I saw an osprey fly down and take a fish from in front of him at about the same time that I saw him react in frustration for missing a fish.  When we got together later I found out that he had hooked the fish that the osprey then took from him,” Hanson said.

LoFaro, as many of those close to him will attest to, is a guy who seeks fun in everything he does. In the class she had with him, Brown talked about the new ways he would keep the class engaged. “We had a wide variety of students in our class: athletes, mathematicians, people just trying to complete their GenEds – it was quite the hodgepodge of personalities. [LoFaro] managed to keep everyone engaged and attendance never dropped as the semester went on. We all looked forward to attending his class and seeing what whacky story he’d tell in class that day!”

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