CU Math Prof. Uses Local Landmark to Illustrate Math Problem

For Immediate Release: 
Aug 06 2007

CONTACT: Dr. W. R. Winfrey, Professor of Mathematics

CU Math Prof. Uses Local Landmark to Illustrate Math Problem

Athens, W.Va. – There’s nothing “elementary” about linear algebra for most of us, but not so for Concord University Professor of Mathematics, Dr. W.R. Winfrey. Winfrey teaches introductory and advanced mathematics courses at Concord, and because of his particular area of expertise, was asked by Prentice-Hall, publishers of Elementary Linear Algebra, to write “something besides the usual dry introductions” found in that genre of textbooks.

Winfrey used a local monument to illustrate a particular point because of his interest in, and affiliation with a local historical organization, the Clay Memorial Park Foundation.

The Clays were the first white settlers in Mercer County, and several years ago, local historian William Sanders wrote a book about the Clay family. Dr. Winfrey, and his daughter, Deborah Lynne Winfrey, [descendents of the Clay family] composed a conceptual design for a monument to commemorate the Clay family’s contributions to Mercer County, and Todd Boggess of E.T. Boggess Architect completed the design. The engraving and installation were done by Bluefield Monument Company. The monument is located near the intersection of routes 19 and 10, north of Kegley and is on the site of the original Clay family cemetery.

“Years ago, a previous owner of the land (we don’t know whom) removed all of the headstones in the cemetery. So, the monument serves the dual purpose of being a monument to the Clays and of being a sort of replacement for the missing headstones,” Winfrey said.

Winfrey used the Clay Monument to illustrate how linear algebra can be used in image analysis to find edges in a digital image. Edge detection is a first step to creating a line drawing from a digital image. “Basically, I’m trying to show that you can understand many different things in terms of the concepts and tools of linear algebra,” Winfrey said.

The textbook was published in June.

The Clay Foundation hosted a reunion for the descendants of the Clay family in June, which was well attended.