Remembering Terry Allison, who taught mathematics for 50 years

Allison passed away on May 22 at York Hospital
Three men in a classroom, smiling at the camera.

Left to right: David Christiansen, Penn State York chancellor; Terry Allison, associate teaching professor of mathematics; and Robert Farrell, director of academic affairs.

Credit: Joan Smeltzer

YORK, Pa. — Terry Allison, adjunct instructor in mathematics, passed away at WellSpan York Hospital on May 22. He was 78.

“Terry Allison, a cherished member of the math faculty on campus, embodied kindness, gentleness, and boundless generosity,” said Joan Smeltzer, associate teaching professor of mathematics and University College senior faculty mentor, who worked with Allison for 30 years. “His unwavering dedication to Penn State York and its students was truly remarkable. Terry’s passion lay in nurturing a deep understanding and appreciation for mathematics among his students.”

Allison earned his master’s degree in mathematics education from Millersville University in 1972 and was hired to teach at Penn State York in the fall semester of 1974. Among the courses he taught were foundational courses and Calculus II. He also taught a focused, high-demand math course for education majors.

In 1999, he earned the prestigious James H. Burness Award for Excellence in Teaching. He also initiated and led the lengthy process of making MATH 10 (Preparation Skills for Success in Mathematics) a permanent course at Penn State, which is now offered at nearly all Penn State campuses. 

“He poured his heart and soul into this mission, leaving a lasting impact on many, many students. His presence in the math department was more than that of a colleague; he was a beloved friend who would step in to help whenever and however needed,” Smeltzer added. “We will all miss those hallway chats with Professor Allison as he made his way to 105 Romano. His legacy lives on through the countless lives he touched, and his memory will forever warm our hearts.”

Dedication to students and colleagues

Allison served as a professional math tutor in the Nittany Success Center for a number of years and was instrumental in the success of the Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) bridge program, where he served as the math clinic leader.

Deirdre Folkers, a longtime colleague of Allison, said, “I had the privilege of working with Terry for more than 15 years while serving as assistant director of academic affairs. Terry consistently demonstrated care and concern for his students and an ongoing dedication to improving his craft. He was a joy to work with and our students were lucky to have him as an instructor.”

Robert Farrell, director of academic affairs, shared, “The entire campus community is saddened by Terry’s passing. He was a perfect gentleman, a welcoming scholar, and a professor with a knack for quickly assessing exactly what his students needed. He will be greatly missed.”

Family and service

Allison is survived by his wife of 55 years, Mary Elizabeth (Horst) Allison; one son, Douglas C. Allison; three grandchildren, Cavanaugh, Teigen, and Aine Allison; one brother, John C. Allison; and two nieces. He was preceded in death by one brother, Fred A. Allison. A celebration of life service was held on June 1 in York, Pennsylvania.