In his 37 years at Denison, Mathematics Professor Emeritus Andy Sterrett educated generations of students and excelled as a scholar in his field. He was appointed the Barney Chair of Mathematics in 1988 and served three terms; served as dean from 1973 to 1978; and in fall semester 1980, served as acting provost. Andy served in numerous leadership roles with the Mathematical Association of America and was awarded their Certificate of Meritorious Service. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of North Carolina, and co-authored and edited several books.
Beyond his immense contributions to teaching and scholarship, Andy was a celebrated World War II hero. His missing arm, lost to a German artillery shell on the frontlines of battle in France, was a reminder of the not-so-distant past, when many college-age young adults were called to fight overseas. Andy had been an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University when his studies were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army’s 44th Infantry Division.
After experiencing extensive war injuries, he returned to the U.S. for rehabilitation to relearn basic living skills with his new prosthetic wooden arm. It was a difficult time — but one that Andy faced with his optimistic approach to life, says Granville resident and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Bennett, who attended Granville schools with Andy’s daughter and later became a friend to him. “His motto all along was, ‘You don’t dwell on what you’ve lost; you focus on what you do have and work with it.’”
The Purple Heart recipient finished his bachelor of science from Carnegie Mellon and earned a master’s and doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. Some of Andy’s Denison colleagues and many students didn’t know he had lost his arm in the war. “He never discussed or dwelled on it, and they just assumed he’d had a pedestrian accident,” says Kevin Bennett. “But that was Andy.”
In 2016, more than 70 years after his injuries on French soil, Andy received the French government’s highest honor — the Legion d’Honneur — in a ceremony at Denison. Swasey Chapel was filled with guests, Denison’s orchestra performed the French and U.S. anthems, and the French consulate delivered a moving address. It was a fitting tribute to a man who “was not what you’d call a military type,” says Kevin, but who always wore his 44th Infantry Division cap.
Andy died on May 22, 2021, at age 97, at Middleton Senior Living in Granville. He was preceded in death by his first wife of 43 years, Betty Baur Sterrett, and his second wife of 22 years, Kaarina Baker Sterrett. Survivors include his son, Richard (Rikki) Sterrett; daughter, Susan Sterrett; “Nigerian son,” Dr. Dennis Eneanya ’75; stepchildren, Kauko (Judith) Aro, Ilkka Aro, Pirkko (James) McBride; seven grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.