Distinguished Alumna
Class of 2016
Dr. Nancy K. Van Cleave

AHS Class of 1971

Nancy K. Van Cleave’s extensive career in the field of mathematics and computer science education has served the academic community for more than forty years. She was born January 16, 1953, in Tuscola, IL, the third of five children of farming parents Robert L. and Margaret J. Ghere Van Cleave. Nancy was raised on the family farm northeast of Arcola and attended Arcola schools, graduating with the class of 1971. While a student at Arcola High School, she was active in Girls Athletic Association, French Club and served on the Torch staff. Nancy was also Library Club President, Illinois State Scholar, member of National Honor Society and played French horn in the AHS Band.

Following her high school graduation, Nancy enrolled at Eastern Illinois University, where she majored in mathematics and art. She completed her B.S. in Education in 1975 and then taught mathematics and art in the Hutsonville schools. Nancy continued her education at EIU in 1979, earned membership to Kappa Mu Epsilon mathematics honor society and completed her M.A. in Mathematics in 1981. She was a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at EIU 1981-83. Her studies next took her to the University of Kentucky, where she earned her M.S. in Computer Science in 1987. Nancy then worked as a scientific analyst and programmer at the University of Kentucky until 1989. Upon receipt of an Amoco fellowship, she was able to further her education at the University of Kentucky and complete her Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1992.

In the following years, Dr. Van Cleave taught computer science at Williams College, Williamstown, MA; Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX; and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Cloquet, MN. While at Texas Tech, she became a member of Upsilon Pi Epsilon computer science honor society, received the Computer Science Favorite Faculty award and was also a recipient of the Halliburton Award of Excellence for education, research and service.

Dr. Van Cleave was able to return to central Illinois in 1999, when she became Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Eastern Illinois University. She was advanced to Associate Professor in 2003 and then to Full Professor at EIU in 2010.

Since 1991, Dr. Van Cleave has contributed to the research and writing of nearly thirty publications in her field, including A Data Structure for Fast, Near-Optimal Rectilinear Steiner Tree Generation, Components of an American Indian Computer Science Program and Utilizing Open Source and Object Oriented Paradigms in Instructional Technology. Her publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and the results of her work have also been presented at dozens of conferences and symposiums around the country. Dr. Van Cleave continues to submit articles for publication a quarter century after completing her first publication. In addition, she has contributed her writing to numerous successful grant proposals. Dr. Van Cleave has also used her skills beyond her EIU classroom to educate high school students and provide assistance in computer science to area high school superintendents.

Dr. Van Cleave has supervised numerous master’s theses and supported doctoral students working on their dissertations. She continues to serve as faculty advisor for the Mathematics Club, Mathematics Honor Society and Programming Team at Eastern Illinois University. Dr. Van Cleave has a special interest in minority and women’s education in the field of computer science and has volunteered her time to Women in Science and Math, as well as Minority Mentoring in Math and Science.

Nancy maintains she is no one special, but hopes students believe they can accomplish as much or more than she has with their own persistence and hard work. She has devoted countless hours outside her classroom in support of her math and computer science students, who report Dr. Van Cleave to be an “amazing professor,” “wonderful human being,” “very dedicated to the success of her students” and “probably the best professor I have had at EIU.” Her life’s work as a teacher, advisor, researcher and author continues to serve her students and the academic community well.

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Last Revision November 11, 2017