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Das honored with Rogers Community Service Award

Kumar DasKumer Das, associate professor of mathematics and director of the Lamar University Office of Undergraduate Research, will be honored with Lamar University’s 2015 Julie & Ben Rogers Community Service Award at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library.

The Rogers family established the award in 1979 to encourage Lamar University faculty and staff to volunteer their service and talents to the community. The Lamar University Foundation maintains the endowment that provides for the award.

Among his many service activities, Das established the Free LU Math Clinic for K-12 students, providing math homework help for students from throughout Southeast Texas. About 30 to 40 students attend the clinic on each Thursday at 6 p.m. at the R.C. Miller Library in Beaumont. There, LU Honors students, ASCENT students, LU math faculty and community members serve as tutors. ASCENT is a scholarship program funded by the National Science Foundation. The unique program received the BISD Community Champion Award for its role in helping the district’s students understand mathematics curriculum.

“It is one of the best things I’ve done in my life,” Das said. “I wish we could tutor every day, but we simply can’t. I have received requests from many other libraries in Southeast Texas to offer tutoring. I hope that someone will be able to take up the challenge.”

In addition to LU faculty and student volunteers, tutors come from all over the region and from all walks of life. “I am very pleased with this effort and thankful to the volunteers who spend their time every week for the sake of the students,” Das said.

As a statistician, Das saw the great need in the local schools for mathematics tutoring and felt compelled to approach the library staff about using their facility. “It is our responsibility as leaders in our community to help our local students,” he said. “Of course, it gives then a better chance to succeed as individuals, but in the long run it will help the entire region.”

A volunteer with Boy Scouts of America, the father of two, a 5th grader and a 2nd grader, has served as a Bear Den Leader for Pack 221, helping with the Pinewood Derby and other scouting activities.

Das is also member of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, enjoys participating in Arts Day activities and has helped provide grant funding information to the museum. He also has served as a Junior Achievement volunteer for the past three years, providing lectures and tutorials in local schools, and, together, with the dean of students at All Saints Episcopal School in Beaumont, is developing a reading lounge to help students investigate reading interest and achievement.

As a member of the India Association of Southeast Texas (IAST), Das has been involved in many activities, including the Cancer Walk, Gusher Marathon, Community Health Fair, Charity Dance Program and more. As sports director for IAST, Das has hosted many sports events and tournaments.

For the university, Das served as the advisor to the LU Math Club from 2007 to 2009, and continues to assist in programs and by recruiting speakers.

Kumar DasIn 2005, Das formed the Bangladesh Student Association, which has grown from a handful to more than 125 members. BSA won recognition on campus as the best improving organization in 2011 and the following year was named Best Student Organization.

When shuttle pickup was not available, Das took the initiative to travel to Houston to pick up new students arriving from Bangladesh, welcoming them to LU and helping them settle in Beaumont. At the other end of their experience at Lamar University he has arranged functions to give farewell to graduating students.

“I remember how it felt when I first came to the U.S. as a graduate student,” Das said. “These students come from halfway around the world, some 9,000 miles, to a different culture, different language and different foods. So we provide support, guidance and sometimes shelter during the transition period.”

Das and his family often host new Bangladeshi students in their home, usually within the first two weeks of arrival. Some students have stayed with the family for extended periods until suitable housing can be found near the campus.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment that I can show them the path of graduate life and how good this institution is in terms of providing education,” said Das who was named the Dr. Melvin Burst Advisor of the Year Award in both 2011 and 2012.

That support is appreciated as many graduates over the past decade have stayed in touch, and some return from across the state and beyond to participate in international student events on campus such as for International Mother Language Day, an event Das helped organize to commemorate one of the most memorable days in the history of Bangladesh and Bengali culture.

Other 2015 recipients of the Rogers Community Service Award are Lauri Arnold,  Lamar Institute of Technology, Butch Campbell, Lamar State College-Orange, and Amanda Smith, Lamar State College-Port Arthur.