Math professor competed with wife for WU position

Dr. Zachary Abernathy
Dr. Zachary Abernathy and NBA point guard Chris Paul hang out together. Photo courtesy of Dr. Zachary Abernathy

After competing with his wife, Kristen, for a position in the department, Zachary Abernathy, assistant math professor, got his start at Winthrop three years ago.

The university hired them both soon after they completed graduate school.

Originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., Abernathy completed his undergraduate education at Wake Forest University and graduate education at North Carolina State University.

Like many students, he said he was originally unsure what career path he wanted to take in life.

“I was procrastinating like crazy with what I wanted to do with my life,” Abernathy said. “I had no idea.”

He said throughout school he had a “knack for math” and was naturally good at it.

In college, he graduated with degrees in math and physics but was still unsure what he wanted to do in either area.

“After I graduated from college I said, ‘I still don’t know what I want to do. I guess I’ll just go to school in math some more,’” he said. “So I went to go get my Ph.D. in math.”

Abernathy realized his love for teaching while in graduate school.

Students who agreed to teach a class while studying had their tuition waived and were paid by the university to teach. He agreed to teach and said he did not mind playing along since he was getting paid to go to grad school. Once he started teaching, Abernathy said he fell in love with it.

“I learned that I enjoyed thinking about new math problems and doing research,” Abernathy said. “And I also just discovered that I loved to teach. If I became a professor, I could continue to do both of those things.”

Currently, he teaches a wide variety of math classes, in addition to ACAD 101. Math courses he has taught include Math 150, Math 105, Differential Equations, Real Analysis and Math Modeling Competition.

When he is not teaching, Abernathy enjoys playing the piano, playing basketball and running. He said he grew up loving basketball, especially Wake Forest basketball.

“I was actually at Wake Forest while Chris Paul was there,” he said. “Basketball was huge. He actually went to my high school.”

Chris Paul, NBA point guard, grew up in the same neighborhood as Abernathy in Lewisville, N.C. He said he recalls playing pickup games with Paul in high school, where he would play defense against him and have him locked down since he was still refining his skills.

“That would definitely not be the case now, but that’s my claim to fame,” Abernathy said.

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