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The Passing of Bryan Dorner

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Bryan Dorner, 2011

Image: at PLU on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011.

June 4, 2024

Professor Emeritus Bryan Dorner passed away on Sunday, May 19, 2024. Beloved by his students and peers alike, Bryan joined the Department of Mathematics in 1980 and retired in 2017. He earned tenure in 1986 and was promoted to full professor in 2004.

“Bryan truly cared about students’ learning and provided an exceptional PLU experience to them,” says emeritus Mathematics professor Mei Zhu. “He and Celine opened their home many times to host math department events for students. His generosity and kindness will always be remembered and appreciated.”

Throughout his decades of service, Bryan was a driving force in incorporating technology into the teaching of mathematics at PLU. He applied for and received grants to purchase software and hardware for this purpose as early as 1990, long before technology use in teaching was commonplace. One of his greatest achievements, colleagues say, was a successful grant that brought in money to build a computer laboratory for use in teaching calculus.

Bryan’s interest in ancient mathematics led him to new algorithms for computing sines, cosines, and roots (square roots, cube roots, fourth roots, etc.). He incorporated these investigations into his courses and published his work in journals of the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics and the American Math Society.

Bryan worked with his wife Celine Dorner – also an emeritus Mathematics professor in the math department – to co-found the Mathlete Coaching Project, in which PLU mathematics students coached local middle school students in preparation for Washington’s Math Olympiad competition. His intent was to build a community of enthusiastic people who were enthusiastic about mathematics, stretching from PLU to the elementary schools and including students, parents, teachers, and school administrators.

Bryan wanted kids to see the fun parts of math and believed in teaching core concepts at an early age. He wrote a series of emoji based math books for kids from five to ten so they could enjoy a story of smiley faces adventuring while discovering properties of numbers and patterns that show up with geometry. These were deep mathematical concepts accessible to children. Bryan originally wrote them for his young grandchildren and then shared these books with some PLU faculty members and alumni with young children.

Bryan served on many committees during his 35-plus years at PLU. In particular, he was a member of the famous “Committee on Committees,” the forerunner of the Governance Committee, and the “Computer Committee” that was subsumed into the Instruction Resources Committee. He also served as a Long-Range Planning Committee member from 2007-2009.

“Bryan was very kind and supportive,” says PLU Mathematics professor Daniel Heath. “He served as a mentor to me when I first arrived at PLU, and welcomed my wife and I into the math department and into his family. In his last year or two at PLU, he often read through my notes on a geometry book I was writing, making many great suggestions for improvements.”

A funeral mass in Bryan’s honor will be held on Friday, June 14, 11 a.m. at Our Lady Queen of Heaven (14601 A St. S., Tacoma, WA 98444). PLU community members are welcome, and encouraged to RSVP by emailing

In lieu of flowers, community members may make a gift in memory of Bryan to the Bryan and Celine Dorner Mathematics Scholarship at this PLU tribute giving page.

Bryan Dorner, 1980
Bryan Dorner, PLU 1980, Photo by Kenneth Dunmire
Bryan Dorner, 1984
Bryan Dorner, PLU 1984, Photo by Kenneth Dunmire
Bryan Dorner, 1993
Bryan Dorner, PLU 1993, Photo by Kenneth Dunmire