PEMBROKE — Steven Bourquin had a zest for life.
The popular math professor with a larger-than-life personality was revered by his students and fellow colleagues at UNC Pembroke. He possessed a natural gift to stimulate students’ interest in math.
He cared deeply for his students and connected on a personal level with student- athletes and those who were the first in their family to attend college.
Though his life was tragically cut short, his legacy will live on through countless students’ lives impacted by the Steven D. Bourquin Endowed Memorial Scholarship. Eligibility requirements specify recipients must exhibit Bourquin’s characteristics, including his positive attitude, commitment to higher education and undying passion for UNCP.
“I’ve been around students for a long time. More students have commented about Dr. Bourquin and what he meant to their education than any other faculty member I’ve known by far,” said former colleague Eric Dent.
“That was the most important factor in wanting to establish this scholarship.”
Dent, the former dean of the School of Business, and retired Athletics Director Dan Kenney are leading ongoing fundraising efforts.
Bourquin will be remembered as an accomplished mathematician who possessed the uncanny ability to make math fun. A subject some students–especially non-math majors–dread. He took pride in helping students overcome a math-phobia.
“I was never really any good at math and had just accepted that fact until I had Dr. Bourquin as my professor,” said one former student Shelita Odum. “He taught me to love math. You could see the passion he had for teaching and for his students.”
For many students, like Odum, math is a scary subject. Dent has heard testimony after testimony of students who struggled with a particular math or statistics course before discovering Bourquin.
“He was able to make it clear to them. What made him an impressive teacher was the fact that he cared about each of his students.”
During his 15-year tenure, Bourquin mentored countless students, like Adam Grossman. Bourquin left an indelible impression on him.
“He was very helpful in terms of shaping me at a young age. He was a great mentor and an excellent calculus and statistics professor. He was someone I looked up to during an impressionable time of my life,” Grossman said.
“He was a different kind of professor. He was someone you could have a relationship with, as well. He was good at balancing the two. It’s wonderful to see so many people coming together to support this scholarship. Dr. Bourquin had such a positive impact on a lot of people’s lives and that needs to be remembered.”
Bourquin joined the UNCP faculty in 2003, after teaching in the math department at Ohio University Eastern–his home state.
At UNCP, he served as department chair, dean of the Maynor Honors College and was a member of the advisory committee that helped revitalize the football program. Another passion of his.
An award-winning professor, he was the 2016 recipient of the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award and gave the winter commencement address that year. He was also a two-time winner of the UNCP Outstanding Teaching Award.
“For Dr. Bourquin, education was such a source of pride,” Kenney said. “I don’t think I ever saw him happier than when he received his full professorship. He brought the classroom to life.”
Kenney, Dent and Bourquin developed a tight bond that extended beyond campus. He lived in an apartment at Dent’s home.
“He was like a big brother to all my children,” Dent said.
“He was a part of our family,” Kenney added. “He was a regular at family celebrations, Thanksgiving and trips. He loved helping people, especially students. We wanted to make sure his legacy lives on and honors his legacy in higher education. We hope this scholarship helps more students be successful and go on and do some of the wonderful things that Dr. B did in his life.”
A golf tournament to raise additional funds will be held at Pinecrest Country Club in Lumberton on Sept. 5, which marks the one-year anniversary of his death.
To make a contribution or to receive more information about the Steven D. Bourquin Endowed Memorial Scholarship, call the Office of Advancement at 910.521.6252 or online at uncp.edu/give.