CHAPEL HILL — For decades, Harold Reiter has been a math missionary for students in North Carolina.
His day job is to teach math to college students at UNC Charlotte, where he has been a professor since 1972. But he spends many Saturdays at math competitions, camps and festivals that he established for gifted middle and high school students who were not sufficiently challenged in the classroom.
On Thursday, Reiter received the Award for Excellence in Public Service by the UNC Board of Governors. The award has a cash prize of $7,500.
Reiter was recognized for his contributions to math education in the Charlotte area and statewide. He personally mentored math prodigies and made college classes available to them; some of his former students have gone on to math doctorates and are on faculties around the country.
In Charlotte, he created math clubs years ago that provide enrichment for students in grades four through 10. He founded a math festival for girls and the Carolina Panthers Number Crunch math competition, which uses football variables to challenge students in problem solving. It’s the only such program sponsored by a National Football League team.
Reiter has conducted workshops for math coaches and K-12 math teachers. For the past decade, he has been the state director for American Mathematical Competitions, the nation’s oldest contest for middle and high school students.
“The timing of this event is terrific,” Reiter joked Thursday. “I will be 70 on Sunday. What a nice birthday party.”
Reiter thanked UNC Charlotte officials for giving him the latitude to do community outreach.
“Service is not a unilateral activity,” he said. “It takes a community. Fortunately for me, my career has been carried out in an environment that encouraged, enabled and rewarded my efforts.”
For every prodigy, Reiter said, there are hundreds of students with average math talent who just need to catch fire. “That’s what keeps me going,” he said.