Family-Placed Death Notice
SIGUR, Steve Steve Sigur died Saturday, July 5, 2008. A native Atlantan, he was 62. Steve's life was teaching and he taught math in the high school at Paideia School for 29 years. A large, gentle bear of man and a brilliant and well-regarded mathematician, Steve bought a passion for life and learning into the classroom. His room was filled with machines, three-dimensional objects, musical instruments and papers. His class lessons ranged from math to music to anecdotes from one of his annual solitary hiking trips in remote areas. Steve spent all of his school hours and a large share of his after school time with students. In recent years, students and friends knew he could be found in the late afternoon at an Emory Village restaurant at work on his laptop computer, and many stopped by for help or to just talk and visit. As a teacher, Steve's goal was to share the beauty of mathematics with gifted math students and those who struggled with his subject. He succeeded with both as well as with students in between. At the news of his death, outpourings of memories from former students flooded the school's alumni e-mail address. "Your class helped me understand the simplicity and wholeness of math. Math isn't a subject but a way of seeing the world. It explains patterns and sounds and shapes, and all parts of math are really connected," wrote one of his former students. "Thanks to you, I learned to regularly challenge the limits of what I am capable as an intellectual being," wrote another. A college math professor and former student wrote, "I literally do not think that I would have discovered my current career without the way that you taught me the joys of mathematics and the joys of teaching both explicitly and through your actions. " At this year's Paideia graduation ceremonies, two seniors spoke movingly of Steve's impact on them as students. "Third period every day this year was learning at its best for the six of us in the seminar in mathematics and physics class. Our teacher, Steve Sigur, would sit us down on couches and tables and reveal to us the Secrets of the Universe. Literally. Steve understands the world and tthe cosmos through mathematics and with a beautiful sensitivity, and somehow during those third period chats, he communicated a piece of it to us, six goofy teenagers enthralled by his mind and voice. And we had fun," said one. "I was nervous when I found out that [Steve] would be my teacher; why would someone so smart want to waste time with a math student like me?" said the other. "Well, I have never been so mistaken in my life... Steve, like a lot of teachers at Paideia, teaches from the heart. Recently, when I was doing an interview with him for an article in "The Forum", he said that he teaches not just to make his students become better at math, but to be confident enough in their abilities that they can then help teach their classmates." Steve graduated from Northside High School and attended Brown University. He came to Paideia in 1974, shortly after the independent school was founded. He'd previously taught at Northside. In the early years of the high school, Paideia headmaster Paul Bianchi recalled, "Steve was most of our math department, as well as teaching courses in physics, William Blake, music, coaching basketball, and overseeing a wide range of independent studies." Steve left Paideia in the late 1970s to pursue a doctorate in physics at University of Maryland. He returned to teach at Paideia in the mid-1980s. In 1989, Steve, along with the late Dwight Love of Greater Atlanta Christian Schools, founded the Georgia ARML (American Regions Mathematics League) team. Over the years, Steve worked with and coached the Georgia team in the Regional and National competitions. In 2007, he was awarded the Samuel L. Greitzer Distinguished Coaches Award for outstanding service to ARML and the Georgia team. The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) gave Steve the Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished High School Mathematics Teaching in 1996 and 1997. In August 2004, he was one of the three invited plenary speakers at the MAA MathFest, an annual meeting for college math professors in Providence, Rhode Island. In what is believed to be one of the few addresses by a high school teacher to this group, Steve previewed the forthcoming book, "The Triangle Book" (AK Peters) that he co-authored with noted math professor, John H. Conway of Princeton University. The book, which was completed shortly before his death, is on planar triangles and will be printed in a triangular format. Steve was diagnosed with brain cancer in March 2007. Throughout his treatment, he continued to teach for as long as he was able. This spring, the cancer forced him to leave the classroom but not his thoughts of teaching or his students behind. His student recalled in her speech at graduation, "In late April, after his cancer impaired his ability to teach every day, Steve came back and talked to us about the polyhedron projects he wanted us to finish. At the end of class, he stood up, towering above all of us and said, ëI just want to let you all know before you go, that you folks are truly wonderful. You have done amazing and unique things in this class this year, and I couldn't be prouder of you." And then he hugged each and every one of us." Steve is survived by his brother, Joe, and his niece Emalee Sigur. Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m., Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at H.M. Patterson & Son Spring Hill Chapel, 1020 Spring St. Visitation will be from 2-4 p.m, Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at Spring Hill Chapel. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to Paideia School for a special memorial fund.
Published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jul. 8, 2008.