Dr. David Sprows, a record-holder for longest serving Villanova professor and second place winner of the the 1954 Harding Junior High School jitterbug contest, began teaching mathematics at Villanova University in 1961. At the conclusion of the Fall 2018 semester, Dr. Sprows will be going on sabbatical and then retiring after 57 years of teaching. Dr. Sprows also informed The Villanovan that his colleague, Dr. George McCook, Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics, has served for 57 years as well. They could share the record for longest serving professor at the University.
Over the decades, Dr. Sprows has watched Villanova transform into the renowned university it is today. “When I started, the Augustinians were in all of the admin positions,” Dr. Sprows said. “Back in the 60s, [the university] was all male, except for the nursing school, which was off campus at the time. Everyone had to wear a tie. And the freshmen had to wear what we called ‘dinks.’” To illustrate, he reached into the filing cabinet drawer behind him and pulled out a dark blue felt cap with a large, white Villanova emblem on it. However, he says that the biggest difference from when he started teaching here is the students themselves. “Villanova now is a much more demanding than when I started,” he said. “The students are smarter. I’m going to miss it a lot.”
When asked what inspired him to devote his life to teaching, his answer was simple: “I just drifted into it. After one semester of student teaching, I knew I didn’t want to teach high school.” He found an opportunity to begin an assistantship at Villanova through a connection with professors at West Chester, where he earned his undergraduate degree. After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 in 1957, schools scrambled to build up their math departments. Many parochial schools needed math teachers. One of Dr. Sprows’ first teaching positions at Villanova was in a summer program to teach nuns how to be math teachers. Dr. Sprows said they were some of the most “conscientious” students he’s ever had.
Dr. Sprows acknowledges his many blessings in his career and in his life. “I lucked out in terms of where I landed, but especially in who I married.” He considers his wife, Anna May, the greatest blessing of them all. Three of their children are Villanova graduates. Dr. Sprows shares that his oldest son was a math major who married a Villanova nursing major, his youngest daughter graduated from the engineering school, and his oldest daughter, a biology major, dated a business student. If they had gotten married, he would have an alumnus of every college at Villanova covered in his family. However, with his granddaughter currently a freshman at Villanova, there’s still time!
Dr. Sprows shares what he will miss the most about his job: “The connection with students. Teaching classes. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do without it!” Considering his familial ties to the community, however, Dr. Sprows will be a part of the Villanova community for years to come.