Unsung Hero: Emmett Dennis


Maya ObeidSpecial to the Southern News

Mathematics professor, Emmett Dennis, has been teaching for 40 years, and has been working at Southern for 16 years. Teaching, he said, is “my passion, my love” and he has had a love for math since high school, and through that love, he found his career.

“I just love math from when I was in high school, I found myself helping others with math and eventually grew into that habit of showing my peers and, given that I already loved the subject so much, I just figured I’d start teaching it,” said Dennis. “I really started my career in teaching when I was the physics lab instructor in my senior year of college.”

Dennis’ love for math does not stop there,  as he goes to his native country, Liberia, every summer to teach at the University there. He said when he finished school in America, he always had plans to go back to his country, until the war broke out, which forced him to seek further refuge in America. The war stretched for 14 years, killing many of his family members.

Things finally started to look up in the country by 2005, when Liberia elected a new leader into power and by 2009, he decided to take a chance and started dedicating his summers helping out there.

“As soon as school closed over here, bam, I was on that plane straight to Liberia, staying there for basically four months,” said Dennis.

He added that, overall the only tiring part of the trip was the first few weeks back

in America trying to adjust back to the time schedule.

Dennis said he also works with teachers from the elementary school levels to high school levels, giving workshops and collaborating with them while leading his own classes as well.

Dennis said he also leads a healthy, nourishing lifestyle after fighting both colon cancer in 1990 and prostate cancer in 2002.

“Because of those two experiences, I have a completely different outlook on life,” said Dennis. “I try to enjoy life now to the best I possibly can.”

Besides being a math teacher, Denis said he also enjoys playing soccer, and if not for teaching, that is probably what he would of been doing. He played in Liberia, and then continued to play when he came to America.

“I played soccer for a first division team in Liberia when I was in high school…I continued to play soccer when I came to Ohio in America,” said Dennis, “and then another excellent team when I moved to Louisiana.”

Dennis carried on his passion for soccer when he moved to Connecticut as well.

Dennis said he finds himself with a good amount of free time on the weekends, which he takes advantage of by traveling around the country to see his family.

“I don’t drive, I take the bus or the train, relax on there and then when I get to my destination I rent the car from wherever I am,” said Dennis. “I have a lot of family in Maryland, Louisiana and New York because a lot of us had to flee the war in Liberia.”

Between soccer, his family, his overseas trips and teaching math, Dennis has always had a lot to juggle. Through all he has experienced and done in his life, he said if he could give any advice to the students and people at Southern it would be: “You have to try and make the best of life and enjoy the beauty of nature,” said Dennis. “To me, that’s what’s it’s all about. Appreciate the sun and the stars and appreciate all you have. And stop fighting each other down here and thinking it’s okay.”

Photo Credit: Maya Obeid – Special to the Southern News

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