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A passion for teaching gifted teens

Richard SinclairUnder Dean Richard Sinclair’s leadership, thousands of students have graduated from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science and have gone on to influence fields including medicine, engineering, law, technology and even the fine arts.

Sinclair, above, will retire at the end of the Spring 2014 semester, marking 22 years with TAMS and 37 years with UNT.

Path to UNT

Sinclair was born in Chicago, and remembers always having an interest in science. When he imagined his life after high school and college, he saw himself wearing a white lab coat.

But before picking up a lab coat, Sinclair joined the United States Marines and was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina through the late 1960s. Soon after, he made his way to Oklahoma, where he studied biology, physiology and biophysics at Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma’s College of Medicine.

In 1977, Sinclair joined North Texas State University as an assistant professor of physiology in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Department of Physiology. Sinclair officed in the old Student Health and Wellness Center, which used to be located behind McConnell Hall, the current location of the Barnes & Noble at UNT Bookstore. There, Sinclair met his wife, Nancy,  who was a nurse’s aide while attending UNT as a speech pathology major.

“I spent 14 years at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and eventually became director of admissions,” Sinclair says. “Then an opportunity came up in 1992 to become the director of TAMS. I love teaching and love students, and working with TAMS students all these years has really been a highlight of my career.”

TAMS first classTAMS

The Texas Legislature voted to create TAMS in 1987 to provide gifted Texas high school students with an opportunity to complete their first two years of college while earning a high school diploma.TAMS was the nation’s first residential program for gifted teenage math and science students.

More than 4,000 students have graduated from the TAMS program since its first class in 1988, right, with many students earning national research awards and going on to study at the world’s top universities.

Over the years, TAMS has played a significant role in making UNT among the most successful college campuses in the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Competition, says James Duban, director of UNT’s Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships. UNT leads Texas universities in the number of Goldwater Scholars in math, science and engineering with 52 Goldwater Scholars named since 1996. TAMS students have won 50 of the prestigious scholarships.

“The TAMS program is important to advancing STEM education and goes a long way in creating the next generation of leaders in those fields,” UNT President Emeritus V. Lane Rawlins says. “But TAMS wouldn’t be the leader it is today were it not for Dr. Sinclair’s passion for science and mentoring gifted teens.”  

UNT Provost Warren Burggren has begun a national search for a new TAMS dean who is expected to be in place by July, and Sinclair looks forward to handing the program over to new leadership.

“Over the past two decades I’ve learned so much about gifted teenagers, and have been so impressed with their optimism, determination and accomplishments,” Sinclair says. “I know whoever our new dean will be, that they will continue to provide great opportunities to Texas’ most gifted high school-agestudents.”

After his retirement, Sinclair plans pursue personal passions including travel, amateur radio and photography.

—Leslie Wimmer, News Promotions

Above photo by Gary Payne / URCM

Posted on: Tue 04 March 2014

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