Member Spotlight: Mohammed Shayib
I fled my home town—Alma, Safad, northern Palestine—with my family when I was only 5 years old.
This was during the first Arab-Israeli war, in 1948. I made the trip on a cow’s back to southern Lebanon.
For the next few years, my family moved from one village to another, seeking a place to make a living. It was then that I started my schooling.
It was my father who got me to love mathematics. He helped me memorize the multiplication tables, despite he and my mother never attending school. By the time I made it to sixth grade and was first in my class on the national exam, my family had settled in a village for Palestinian refugees.
It was in the village school. There were 30 students, from all grades, and we had one teacher. On my first day of school, I sat on a wooden step-stool, next to the teacher and near the door. Everyone started reading, one by one, and I could not take it. I ran next door to my parents. When my father saw me, he asked, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Everyone is reading except me.” He said I had to wait my turn to read and sent me back, instructing me to tell the teacher I had run to the restroom. I have been studying ever since.
It was my father who got me to love mathematics. He helped me memorize the multiplication tables, despite he and my mother never attending school. My half uncles did, so they helped me with reading and writing. By the time I made it to sixth grade and was first in my class on the national exam, my family had settled in a village for Palestinian refugees.
Throughout high school, I lived with my uncle and attended several schools in Sidon, Lebanon. During my last year, I went to the National Evangelical Institute, where I graduated among the top four in the class.
Thanks to a scholarship from the United Nationals Relief and Works Agency, I went to Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, despite the six-days war in 1967 that interrupted the final exams. I earned my bachelor of science degree in special mathematics with first-class honors. After graduation, I became a full-time teaching assistant in the department of mathematics at the University of Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. While there, I also earned my master’s degree at the University of Liverpool, UK, and AUB, Beirut, Lebanon.
I received my visa to go to the UK in 1970. On my way to buy my airplane ticket, a friend persuaded me to check with the American Friends of the Middle East State Department Agency in Beirut to see if I could get a scholarship to go to the United States. I did. They paid for my airplane ticket, my medical insurance, and my graduate degree for a year. I went on and finished my degree at AUB, Beirut, in August 1972. My thesis was titled “Number Theory: Gaussian Integers as Sums of Squares.” After I finished my master’s degree, I transferred to Texas Tech University and began work on my PhD in mathematics.
In early May of 1972, I met my future wife. It took a year to prepare for the wedding, but on August 18, 1974, she became my wife and joined me in El Paso, Texas. We have been married for almost 43 years now.
In the summer of 1976, I took a class in sampling theory. The course, instructed by Thomas Boullion, hooked me on statistics. The course was interesting; I like crunching numbers and making sense out of them. I wrote my dissertation on error rates in Poisson discrimination and graduated in 1979.
The week I earned my PhD, the chair of the department of mathematics at Texas Tech asked me if I was interested in working at Cottey College, a junior college for women in Nevada, Missouri. I said I was, but I had to go back to Maine and eventually back to Kuwait because of my visa. This was 1980.
By 1990, I had two daughters and two sons and had co-authored Applied Statistical Methods.
In August of 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Because our oldest son was born in America, we were able to evacuate to the United States. We went back to Lubbock, Texas, where I taught for two years before joining Texas Instruments. During my tenure there, I was certified by the American Society for Quality as a Certified Quality Engineer. In 1998, I was laid off, but found a job at Texas Tech as a systems analyst until 2004, when I went to teach at Prairie View A&M University.
I retired this past August, but still love to teach statistics. Currently, I am an adjunct faculty member in the department of mathematics at Lone Star College.
I contribute to the ASA in memory of my parents, who were committed to me staying in school regardless of our resources. Moreover, it allows the ASA to promote awareness of numbers and data in general. When they are used correctly based on solid procedures, they can lead to a better life.