Professors Are People, Too: Dr. Wantz

Dr. Wantz is one of Regent University’s main math professors, beloved by his students. Originally from central Maryland, Wantz now lives in the Deep Creek area of Chesapeake. 

Having grown up in farm country, Wantz admitted his heart lies in “dairy country, rolling hills, [and] green grass,” but Deep Creek is as close to the country as he can get.

In addition to being a country boy, Dr. Wantz is also a family man.

“I am [married to] Elizabeth. We met when I went to a Christian college. We were friends for a year,” Wantz said. “Seeing each other nearly every meal in the cafeteria gives you the sort of daily life of getting to know each other.”

Wantz sent his kids to a Christian college, hoping that same connection could happen for them, but he admitted it didn’t quite work out as he planned. His son now plans to build on that education and study physics in graduate school.

“I have two kids. My daughter works for the College Board. My son is a chemistry-physics major,” he said. “Our kids have a lot of gifts, but the STEM fields at the moment are controlling their careers.” 

Sitting in his office with a Rubik’s cube pencil holder on his desk and his bookshelf nearly bursting with a plethora of textbooks on calculus and other math’s, Dr. Wantz explains that math has not always been his goal in life.

“In high school I actually was in the program for auto-mechanics,” he said. “I worked a few years doing that but found that it wasn’t terribly challenging for the brain. And it didn’t seem to be lucrative enough to start a family… So, I decided to go to college, and I went with the obvious goal of engineering.”

“You could say math is divided into pure math and applied math, and I’m certainly by training and temperament very much a pure mathematician,” he said. “That shows up in my teaching.” 

Besides liking math for its own sake, Dr. Wantz discovered long ago he also had a gift for teaching. 

“I found that I could help people with math,” he said. “I had no idea prior to that that I could see someone struggling with math and by the time I walked away they were in better shape than when I came, so that was enlightening.”

His favorite part of teaching math is getting paid to do what he loves, doing math problems on the board. 

“What could be better than that? But I [also] very much enjoy the satisfaction of helping people see new things, make connections, that’s a big deal.”

While Dr. Wantz admits he is a realist, there are a number of famous mathematical problems he would like to see solved. 

“The ease of describing [the problem] has nothing to do with the difficulty,” he said. “There’s one problem that was solved in 1994 that was unsolved for 350 years; a lot of people had tried. It sent shock waves through the math world.”

As a math person, Wantz must have a favorite number. 

“[It is] thirty-seven. It’s been that way for a while,” he said. “But there’s no very good reason. It does happen to be a prime number. That’s a number I decided one time I liked, a very long time ago.”

While Wantz enjoys the benefits of modern times, such as online-interactive pool and fast food, he does have a pet peeve with pop-culture. 

“It’s math-phobic. It’s cool to hate math,” he said. “It’s one of those things that’s completely culturally acceptable and understandable and even, in weird ways, praiseworthy to not like it, to not be good at it.”

Dr. Wantz breaks the cliché mold of boring math teachers to pieces. His own personal life story, opinions, hopes, irritations, and even his favorite number prove that professors are people, too.

“In the world of abstract ideas, [math is] a process of logic,” he said. “It’s using logic to argue things and show that they are true. You’re not just writing down observations. You have to give a convincing argument. Why is this property true? That’s the art of proving mathematical theorems.”

Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson is a Department Head for the Daily Runner.