Associate Professor of Mathematics Eric Nordmoe got his start in statistics as an 11-year-old Rockford, Illinois, Strat-O-Matic Baseball phenom, a game that values data interpretation as much as a good throwing arm, keen eye, and bat speed. “We had Strat-O-Matic marathons during sleepovers,” he recalls with a smile. “We’d take breaks to go outside and play wiffleball and call our shots using numbers from the game.” The young Nordmoe loved data and sports, and when it became clear to him that he wasn’t going to make his living in the latter (as center for the Los Angeles Lakers) he followed his passion for the former. These days he occasionally uses Strat-O-Matic Baseball in his statistics classes, particularly to illustrate the concept of conditional probability (how much do your chances of getting a hit depend on who’s pitching, whether you’re home or on the road, and the weather conditions?). He’s also a big fan of M&M candy dispensers used to increase the odds of effective classroom learning, a shtick that dates to his teaching days in Singapore during the early 1990s. More recently, students whose guess is closest to the actual value of the “Stat-of-the-Day” are treated to a pull of the dispenser’s arm. Nordmoe himself was the “prize” in a recent “academic” trade of sorts. A tireless chair/pitcher for the Educational Policies Committee during the College’s adoption of its new curriculum, Nordmoe nevertheless may have been fatiguing just a smidgen (beyond his pitch count) and was ready for (or, depending on one’s perspective, vulnerable to) a change when Provost/Skipper/Manager Mickey McDonald proposed a trade from EPC to the task force for planning for reaccreditation. Nordmoe’s chair/pitching assignment on that team went into “extra innings” when he was asked to lead efforts to implement the reaccreditation plan as chair of the self-study steering committee. His most pleasant surprise during what’s been an occasionally grueling season of accreditation work? “The great progress and extent to which the College has become more student centered and assessment driven,” he says. “It’s very impressive and gratifying.”
What's the best song ever recorded?
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy.
What's your favorite childhood fairy tale or story?
The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I remember acting it out with my mom when I was young, and I’ve acted it out with my own kids during walks in the Lillian Anderson Arboretum.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
What's your favorite word?
I have two. One is “Kalamazoo.” We heard it in rhymes and chants growing up as kids, and now I live here. My second favorite is “serendipity.” It has so much promise of unexpected good.
What's your least favorite word?
“Irreconcilable.” It’s such a somber word, devoid of hope.
What turns you on?
Bicycling in a beautiful setting.
What turns you off?
Cockroaches. When I lived in the tropics I had too many daily battles against them.
What sound do you love?
The crunch of new snow under my boots on a bitter cold morning. It’s probably the Viking in me, but that sound is inevitably associated with the smell of the air on such mornings.
What sound do you hate?
A dentist’s drill; and I say that with apologies to all our fine graduates who went on to become dentists.
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
If I was a technical writer then I could try all the latest gadgets that I was assigned to write about.
What profession would you not like to participate in?
My father was a building contractor and carpenter and I remember him getting into snowmobile suits on cold winter mornings and telling me that I should find work other than his when I grew up. So, while I had great respect for what he did, I had little aptitude for following in his footsteps.
What's been a GREAT MOMENT in your liberal arts learning?
Reading for the third time the The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides when I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago.
Who's the person (living or dead) with whom you'd most like to spend a lunch hour?
My Uncle Eugene. I never knew him. He was the oldest of eight kids, and he was killed in battle during World War II, and I would love the chance to meet him.
What memory from childhood still surprises you?
We collected black walnuts in the Rockford College woods (not far from the neighborhood where I grew up). My dad connected the red wagon behind our riding lawn mower and we’d go down and forage for them. And I forgot all about this memory until years later when I was with my family at Dean’s Ice Cream in Plainwell and ate some black walnut ice cream and the memory came flooding back. So now I collect black walnuts with my kids sometimes.
What is your favorite curse word?
Uff-Da [OOOF-Duh]. It’s a Norwegian exclamation that works both ways, for something good or bad.
What is your favorite hobby?
Cross country skiing.
What is your favorite comedy movie?
The Marx brothers’ Duck Soup. There’s a lot about public tax policy in that movie.
What local, regional, national, or world event has affected you most?
I think the moon landing in 1969. I was nine years old and it was very vivid and personal.
If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?
It’s funny you should mention this. It reminds me of a hysterical moment in Mrs. O’Leary’s Restaurant in Chicago. That place has cow creamers that pour from the nose. So I guess you can say I’ve seen it happen. Whether the milk is flammable, I don’t know.