“In Science We Trust”: An Academy Professor’s Journey
“They say that math is a language in which God wrote the universe. And so you have to be proficient in math to be proficient in science,” Col. Corey Gerving ’95, a U.S. Military Academy professor in the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering, said as he explained how important a role science plays in the advancement of military strategy.
Gerving said it’s not about turning a cadet into the next Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton, it’s about producing the next great military mind. Military strategy, coupled with scientific deliberation, will furnish the strategist needed to guide the country into a hopeful future.
With his daughter, Gabby, attending the U.S. Air Force Academy and hoping to join the Space Force one day, Gerving thought about his journey and how it led him to teach physics at West Point.
He recalled when he was once the young hopeful who would take part in shaping the Army’s future. It was the early ’90s at West Point. There were Colonels. John Lasala and Bruce Oldaker, who were physics instructors at the time. Lasala was as stern as he was brainy and Oldaker was quick-witted and just as shrewd.
Gerving remembered attending one of Oldaker’s lectures where he said to the class, “I will penalize blatantly wrong answers with extreme prejudice — you’re better off not saying anything than saying something wrong.”
Despite their stringent teaching methods, Gerving admired and respected the two instructors. Throughout his tenure as a cadet, Lasala and Oldaker would advise and mentor him, and in turn, Gerving excelled in his physics classes.
Yearlings (sophomores) who struggled in class would often come to Gerving for help. On many occasions, they would go to his barracks room. Gerving would move the dresser aside and would use the wall of the room to write on with dry-erase markers and take his colleagues through all the physics problems they had trouble with.
“I did well in my physics classes when I was a cadet,” Gerving said. "(Cadets I assisted) would say ‘you should be an instructor here someday,’ and so that (statement) kind of got me thinking — maybe I will come back as an instructor.” Read more.