Kelly: Westside grad, now teaching at Harvard, to share passion for beauty of math

Michael Kelly

On his way to becoming a Rhodes Scholar, Mike Hopkins of Omaha drove a delivery truck over all kinds of roads.

Today, he's a Harvard University math professor and recipient of a prestigious National Academy of Sciences award. But in the summer of 1976, after graduating from Omaha Westside High, he tried various ways to make sure he didn't fall asleep at the wheel.

“I tried yelling at cows in the fields,” he said, “just trying to get a reaction from them.”

They didn't react. And yelling “Hey!” every time he saw a bale of hay got old soon.

So instead, he began solving advanced mathematical problems in his head.

As he picked up and delivered products in three cities — Fremont, Lincoln and Council Bluffs — he silently worked out the numeric proofs of problems from a college textbook. If it was tough enough that it took him all three legs of his delivery route to figure it out, he called it a “three-legged theorem.”

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