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Senior Story 2023: Good Combinations
May 27, 2023

Name: Isaac Hellerman

Hometown: Silver Spring, MD

Major: Math with a concentration in music

Notable UD Memory: Informally directing liturgical music with other student musicians at Rome campus during COVID-19 shutdown

Achievements: Putnam Math Competition prizewinner; Summa cum Laude

Future Plans: Beginning a Ph.D. program at the University of Texas.

The Putnam Math Competition, a six-hour test widely recognized as the most challenging and prestigious undergraduate math competition in North America, had a bit of an upset this year. All of the top 25 competitors were from MIT, Harvard, Stanford or Yale except for one: Isaac Hellerman, BS ’23, a musician from the University of Dallas.

“I ended up taking that test after the end of classes last semester on the same day that I was flying back home. It was just me in an empty office, looking at an exam,” Hellerman recalled. “I was surprised at how hard it was. But I just looked at it and felt like I could do pretty much all of it.”

Hellerman said the Mathematics Department’s approach to the discipline drew him to UD.

“I was just impressed by the Math Department, how they had a good approach to teaching the material and more of a focus on pure math,” Hellerman said.

“I was impressed by the math program and by the Core. That was just a good combination.”

Hellerman’s own interests reflect a similarly catholic spirit. Hellerman came to UD with a background in piano and singing and an interest in liturgical song. He informed this interest in classes on Gregorian chant under UD Chorale Director Brian Bentley and adapted to cello under instructor Marie-Thaïs Oliver, Ph.D., and Director of Music Kristin Van Cleve, M.M., who focuses on chamber music rather than orchestra.

“It’s a nice experience just because it’s a smaller group of people, so you can actually get to know the other musicians a little bit better than you would in a big orchestra,” Hellerman said.

“For an ensemble, it feels like actors stepping into this intricate thing that is happening. With solos, it’s like I feel a lot of energy and I’m just pouring that energy out to the audience. And that’s a really, really cool experience.”

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