Sharon C. "Sherry" Lietman, a former Bryn Mawr School mathematics teacher who worked to instill in her students a love of numbers and puzzles, died of cancer May 1 at Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson. She was 81.
"Sherry influenced scores of Bryn Mawr Lower School girls when it came to math," said Peggy Bessent, former director of the lower school who later became associate head mistress.
"She had a passion for problem solving and math puzzles. She was very patient with her students and wanted them to achieve success. She was a very intuitive and influential teacher," said Ms. Bessent, who retired from Bryn Mawr in 2013.
"She was serious but a lot of fun. She was dedicated and thoughtful," Ms. Bessent said.
The daughter of Ralph Coffield, a tire company worker, and Belle Coffield, a seamstress, Sharon Coffield was born in Akron, Ohio, and raised in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where she graduated in 1952 from Cuyahoga Falls High School.
While living in Cuyahoga Falls, Mrs. Lietman met her future husband, Paul S. Lietman, when both were students in a ninth-grade Latin class. They married in 1956.
That year she also received a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She then earned a master's degree in education from Goucher College in 1976.
Mrs. Lietman taught math in the Bryn Mawr Lower School from 1975 until retiring in 2007.
"She set high standards for her students and worked patiently with them until she could help them experience success," Ms. Bessent wrote in an email.
"For some students, Sherry was their introduction to technology," she wrote. "Years ago, math class was their first hands-on computer experience. Her classroom was lined with Apple computers, and she taught them how to use them.
"For others, Sherry was a compelling example of motivation and perseverance," said Ms. Bessent, who recalled that Mrs. Lietman organized students in a campaign to collect and count 1 million pennies.
She said Mrs. Lietman's students carefully rolled and counted the pennies.
"It took nearly an entire school year," Ms. Bessent said. "She'd then take them to a bank — but first she had to borrow a grocery cart from Eddie's on Roland Avenue, and then push them from her car. One time, a grocery store worker observed her pushing the cart and said he finally figured out that she must have been an owner of a laundromat."
She added: "That effort really defined Sherry. ... At Bryn Mawr, we were always thinking of ways to get the girls actively involved in learning, and what better way then for them to collect and count a million pennies?"
Mrs. Lietman's honors and recognitions included the Alumnae Science Chair award in 1983, the Blair D. Stambaugh Award in 1992, and the Blanche & A.V. William Masters Teaching Award in 2003.
She enjoyed traveling with her husband. Dr. Lietman, who was a Johns Hopkins University professor of medicine, pharmacology, molecular sciences and pediatrics, died in 2013.
Mrs. Lietman also liked to read, cook, walk and work on sudoku puzzles.
The former Ruxton resident was a member of the Mount Vernon Club, 8 W. Mount Vernon Place, where her children will receive family and friends from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.
She is survived by two sons, Dr. Steve Lietman, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic who lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Thomas Mark Lietman, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco; a daughter, Jennifer Lietman Howard, patient care manager at Union Memorial Hospital, who lives in Roland Park; and five grandchildren.