William Joseph Moulds Sr., a retired mathematics chair at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Howard County mathematics supervisor, died of heart and kidney failure Saturday at Seasons Hospice at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center. The longtime resident of Phoenix in Baltimore County was 81.
Born in Baltimore and raised on South Lakewood Avenue in Southeast Baltimore, he was the son of Edward L. Moulds, a Baltimore Transit Co. streetcar operator and his wife, Magdeline Wright. He was a 1955 graduate of Poly who sang in the glee club, was a film projectionist and performed in the Poly Follies.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, a master’s degree from Indiana University and a doctorate from University of Maryland, College Park.
“He was outgoing and was a happy guy,” said Clarence Clawson, a friend for 65 years who lives in Baldwin. “In our senior year of high school, we decided to go into education. One of our buddies told us he was relieved because he never wanted to drive over a bridge that Bill and I designed if we had gone into engineering.”
Mr. Moulds joined the Baltimore City Schools and taught math at Hampstead Hill Middle School. In 1964 he joined the Poly faculty and taught mathematics until 1977 and was math department head from 1970 to 1977. He was then named assistant principal at Poly and held the post until 1982.
“He was an excellent teacher and had a great personality. From day one you could tell he cared about his students and made us work hard,” said Adrian Palazzi, a Towson resident and one of his former students. “He was also a person who gave back. He gave to the school and the alumni association.”
Mr. Moulds created an early course in how to use and program an early generation of computers.
“I remember his computer was early and it was the size of a classroom. It was a key punch machine and it had to be air-conditioned when no other room in the school was cooled except for the front office,” said his son, William J. Moulds Jr. of Alexandria, Va. “He also co-wrote a student text for the use of FORTRAN.”
Mr. Moulds started teaching at Poly when the school was at North Avenue and North Calvert Street, the building that is now the Baltimore City school system central office. He assisted in moving his mathematics department to the school’s new campus on West Cold Spring Lane in 1967.
Mr. Moulds then moved to Howard County, where he became supervisor of mathematics for the public schools until his 1991 retirement. He also taught mathematics at Towson University until 2002.
“He was absolutely the most fantastic leader of math you could imagine. He was personable and had a thorough knowledge of calculus and all levels of math,” said Mary Jo Messenger, a retired teacher and former department head at Centennial and River Hill high schools.
“He led us through the years when he provided the opportunity for us attend to National Council of Teachers of Mathematics meetings,” she said. “He was there at a time of change in the county. Computers were coming in, and so were hand-held calculators. He was thoughtful and encouraging, urging us to incorporate the new technology. He was supportive, wise and gentle. He was also inspiring.”
His daughter, Cara Moulds, a Baltimore resident, said: “He looked for the best in people and he often found it. He challenged himself to grow intellectually and personally. He loved mathematics and was a teacher through and through. He was also the life of the party. He loved music and dancing, and could make people laugh.”
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She said Mr. Moulds could make math comprehensible to confused students. “As a teacher, he liked nothing better than achieving that light bulb moment of getting students to understand a concept for the first time,” she said.
Mr. Moulds was an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, where he was the 1976-1978 Church Council president. He was also master of a Boy Scouts troop from 1978 to 1980.