Long service honored

Published 10:30 pm Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In his office Monday at Norfolk State University, Associate Professor of Mathematics Archie W. Earl, a Suffolk native, reflects on his long service to Virginia, which the state has honored with a service award.

In his office Monday at Norfolk State University, Associate Professor of Mathematics Archie W. Earl, a Suffolk native, reflects on his long service to Virginia, which the state has honored with a service award.

On Tuesday, a Suffolk native with a love of numbers — not merely a knack for them — received an award for his 25 years’ service to the commonwealth of Virginia.

Archie W. Earl, an associate professor of mathematics at Norfolk State University, attended the one-room Pughsville Primary School for first through fourth grades, then Florence Graded School for fifth through seventh grades.

“I lived on the borderline (between the former Nansemond County and Chesapeake) so we had a choice of which high school we could go to,” Earl reflected.

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He chose to attend Crestwood High School in Chesapeake.

It was the segregation era, and Earl, born in 1946, cited the efforts of his grade teacher Viola Elliott, who taught her charges to look out for one another.

“She taught us to help each other, to teach each other,” Earl said. “All the students in the higher grades had to help the students in the lower grades. I think that was one of the advantages of a one-room school.”

Math quickly became young Archie Earl’s favorite subject.

“It seems like I was always good at math,” he said. “Math was fun-time for me. The teachers would give us a lot of problems to figure out, and a lot of times I could figure them out in my head.”

Graduating from Crestwood in 1964, Earl started out studying physics at NSU, but soon changed his major to mathematics, he said.

He fell in love with his future wife at NSU, and before he finished his degree they had wed and started a family, he said.

In fact, it took Earl a few years to finish his degree, and love and marriage weren’t the only reasons.

NSU being a federal land grant school, all students at that time were required to enroll in ROTC for two years.

Earl spent that mandatory stint in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps basic, he said, then after that went into advanced.

“The kids had started coming,” as Earl put it Monday, and he had to provide.

“Actually, with the help of God, I went back in there and finished my degree,” he said. “He gave me the motivation and the willpower to do it.”

Earl graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1971, and now has advanced degrees and qualifications from Hampton University and the College of William and Mary.

He started out as a teacher with Norfolk Catholic High School, later also teaching in Newport News and Suffolk.

Earl got his first college teaching job with Tidewater Community College in 1978. Before joining the NSU faculty in 1991, he taught at other state-supported institutions of higher learning, including Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion University. He also served with the state’s Rehabilitative School Authority and as an education consultant.

About 145 individuals received service awards at NSU’s Scott Dozier Hall on Tuesday.

“I think it’s excellent that the state has decided to honor its employees that have contributed significantly to the success of the different objectives and goals of the state,” Earl said.

Earl said his love of mathematics has abated none over the years. “Math is my first love — as well as my wife,” he said.

From a family with eight children, he credited his parents for keeping his original love affair on track during its early stages.

“Dad — he would always sharpen my pencils,” Earl said. “They were really supportive.”