Eric Walstein, who coached the Montgomery County Math Team for 36 years, on some of the group’s most famous alumni:
Sergey Brin, 38
Google co-founder. With a net worth of $18.7 billion, he is No. 24 in Forbes magazine’s 2012 rankings of the world’s billionaires. Brin, whose father was a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, was not one of the team’s stars. “He happened not to be one of the top scorers, but he was a really nice guy, very funny,” Walstein recalls.
Wei-Hwa Huang, who will be 37 this month
A former Sudoku national champion and four-time world puzzle champion. As an early Google employee, Huang worked on many of the company’s core products including the search engine, but he may be best known for “The Da Vinci Code” Quest on Google, a set of 24 puzzles released in conjunction with the 2006 Columbia Pictures movie. Huang donated $15,000 to the Montgomery County Math Team in 2009, when the county cut funding. “Being on the team was a strong influence in my life,” Huang said. He started on the team as a middle schooler at age 10.
Walstein remembers that Huang thrived on competition and made the U.S. International Mathematical Olympiad team twice. Walstein said that although he was incredibly grateful for Huang’s donation to the team, he was even more moved that Huang flew from California to visit the mathletes. “He is a not only brilliant person, he is a very giving person,” Walstein remembers.
Jacob Lurie, 34
Harvard University math professor. “He wouldn’t take his trench coat off for the four years he was with us,” Walstein remembers. “Now he’s rewriting mathematics. He’s Newtonian brilliant. He’s in line for the Fields Medal — it’s like the Nobel Prize for mathematics. Plus he’s dressing really nicely these days.”