Vanderbilt mathematician James R. Wesson dies

James Robert Wesson, a mathematician at Vanderbilt University and author of an influential algebra textbook, died April 25 at McKendree Health Center. He was 88.

Services for Wesson, professor of mathematics, emeritus, will be 2 p.m. April 30 at Crievewood United Methodist Church, where he was an active member for more than 50 years.

“He was a terrific teacher and greatly loved by his students,” said Billy F. Bryant, professor of mathematics, emeritus. “He had a great sense of humor and also wrote a very good textbook (Lessons in Linear Algebra) that was widely used.”

Wesson, born in Jackson Gap, Ala., earned his master’s and doctorate in mathematics at Vanderbilt after serving in the Army during World War II. After teaching at Birmingham-Southern College in the 1950s, he came back to Vanderbilt as an assistant professor in 1957. He received the Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for excellence in classroom teaching in 1969, the Chancellor’s Cup in 1976 for “the greatest contribution outside the classroom to undergraduate student–faculty relationships in the recent past,” and the Thomas Jefferson Award in 1981 “for distinguished service to Vanderbilt.”

Survivors include wife Ruth Janelle “Jan” Wesson; daughter Janelle Klenk of San Jose, Calif.; son Bobby Wesson of Nolensville, Tenn.; son Phil Wesson of White Hall, Ark.; son Mark Wesson of Ooltewah, Tenn.; 10 grandchildren and 11 great- grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Crievewood United Methodist Church, Vanderbilt University, McKendree Golden Cross or Alive Hospice.

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

Explore Story Topics