We note with sadness the March 19, 2021, passing of Lee V. Stiff, who led the Council, initiated change in our field, and positively and significantly influenced many people. We were blessed to have had him as a colleague, leader, mentor, teacher, and friend.
Dr. Stiff served as NCTM President from 2000-2002, was on the NCTM Board of Directors from 1990-1993, and received NCTM's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
Lee began as a middle and high school mathematics teacher after earning his bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He earned master's degrees in mathematics from The Pennsylvania State University and Duke University and PhD from North Carolina State University. Dr. Stiff joined the faculty University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1978 and went on to North Carolina State University in 1983. Dr. Stiff retired on July 1, 2020, from the NC State University's College of Education as Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and a professor of mathematics education.
Dr. Stiff was passionate and enthusiastic about math education and sharing his knowledge, insights, and perspective throughout his extensive career, especially regarding equity and mathematics education. Stiff received many honors, including from his alma mater, North Carolina State University, and the Benjamin Banneker Association.
Stiff's work in access and equity is foundational in the ongoing work to provide and support equitable mathematics opportunity and learning to students of color. Dr. Stiff was the key spokesperson for equitable mathematics following the release of NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics in 2000 and a strong and consistent voice for changes to support equity.
A gifted writer and presenter, Dr. Stiff inspired, challenged, and supported many of us in the mathematics education community. Twenty years later, his NCTM President's Messages still ring true and give clarity to many of our current challenges. Lee was also the second individual to deliver the Iris M. Carl Equity Address (2009) and a coveted keynote speaker at NCTM Annual Meetings, institutes, and other events in our field. Dr. Lee Stiff always connected his topic to equity. He was always clear about where we and our systems were failing students and how we could create opportunities and eliminate barriers for all underserved and underrepresented students to engage in mathematics.
Lee Stiff will be missed. His work, voice, and vision will continue to inspire, influence, and motivate our work to make mathematics learning and opportunity equitable.
NCTM and the mathematics education community have lost a friend, colleague, mentor, leader, and exemplary teacher. However, he leaves an amazing legacy through those he has influenced. Through each, his resolute voice for equity in mathematics will continue to be heard. As he said in his September 2001 NCTM President's Message, “Improving the mathematics education of all children is a top priority for all of us.” And so, we must all continue his legacy for equity.
-Trena Wilkerson, NCTM President