A number of years ago the question arose whether the University of Washington Mathematics Department could and should join the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS). The more I learned, the more enthusiastic I became, because along with its focus on supporting research PIMS has a strong commitment to reaching beyond the research community to the community at large. My eye was first caught by the series of really neat math problems they were posting on buses with a web address (as I recall) for discussing solutions, and then by the journal full of accessible and intriguing articles aimed at high school students. I was accordingly delighted when we did indeed join. My opinion went up yet further when an article in a PIMS journal inspired me to start running Math Fairs, and that led to my taking part in a PIMS workshop on the subject at the Banff International Research Station.
Despite the level it had already reached, my appreciation for PIMS managed to skyrocket this week. For a start, they did me the honor of awarding me one of this year's Education Prizes, for which I am deeply grateful. In addition, they did so in the context of a really excellent one day conference entitled "Changing the Culture". This is the twelfth of these conferences, which have been run by Simon Frazer University under the auspices of PIMS since roughly the beginning of PIMS. They bring together high school and university faculty members to hear about, discuss and generally bat around some of the many issues that are of common interest. Topics this time included Lesson Study, the varying uses of variables, and students' transition from secondary to university mathematics (conversation as usual dominated by calculus!)
And to top all this off, I not only received the prize from the hands of Ivar Ekeland and Alejandro Adem, the present and incoming directors of PIMS, but joined them for a lovely, conversational lunch in the Harbour Centre Restaurant, which spins even faster than the Space Needle Restaurant (or maybe just has a longer radius). A few years ago I might have been overwhelmed. Now I'm inspired and fired up and rarin' to go do more of the things they gave me the prize for. Thank you, PIMS!