J. George Kropp, an educator whose career at Calvert Hall College High School teaching social studies and history spanned more than 50 years, died Sunday of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.
The longtime Loch Raven Village resident was 76.
"I call him a legend and an icon. If you knew him, he was always student-centered. He always put the kids first," said Chuck Stembler, principal of Calvert Hall. "He also had a genuine love of his subject and all things history, and he loved the intellectual rigors of history."
The son of a typesetter and a clerical worker, Joseph George Krapp was born in Baltimore and raised on William, Randall and Patapsco streets in South Baltimore.
During his youth, he developed a love for swimming at the old Alcazar Hotel on Cathedral Street, which is now the Baltimore School for the Arts, and later coached the Knights of Columbus swim team with Arthur "Francis Reds" Hucht
The team later moved to the Orchards pool on East Joppa Road, which became the Knights of Columbus-Orchards pool. It was there that Mr. Kropp met a young woman who also worked there, Doris A. Fangman, whom he married in 1961.
Mr. Kropp, who never used his first name and legally changed his name to Kropp, attended Holy Cross School. He subsequently trained for the priesthood at St. Charles College in Catonsville.
He later attended the Jesuit Novitiate in Wernersville, Pa., for a year and a half before leaving and enrolling at what is now Loyola University Maryland, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1960. He also earned a master's degree from what is now Coppin State University.
Mr. Kropp began his teaching career in 1960 at Calvert Hall, which had moved from downtown Baltimore to its Towson campus.
"He was kind, compassionate and caring, and there was nothing that he wouldn't do for his kids at Calvert Hall," said Mr. Stembler, who was a student of Mr. Kropp's in Advanced Placement history.
"He was a fabulous teacher who taught history through stories. He knew how to make it interesting," said Mr. Stembler, who graduated in 1983. "He had an amazing memory and knowledge."
Blaine Taylor, a Towson writer, was a student of Mr. Kropp's from 1961 to 1964.
"He was truly a great man, in my view beloved by all who knew him. I would be astonished to learn that he had anyone anywhere who did not like him," said Mr. Taylor. "As a teacher, he was witty, funny, patient, informed, informative and interesting.
"I saw him as an ideal to whom I looked up to as a man in all ways possible, and I will always be glad that I knew him. He had a profound influence on my life and careers in every possible way," he said. "If ever a man was a success in the best possible meaning of the word, it was he."
In addition to teaching, Mr. Kropp headed the History Club and enjoyed organizing field trips to Gettysburg and other battlefields and historic sites.
Swimming remained a focus of Mr. Kropp's life. In 1967, he was hired as swimming director of the Sherwood Forest Boys and Girls Camp on the Severn River, where for more than 40 years, he taught generations of children to swim, dive and play water polo. He also oversaw swim races for campers and community meets for the Severn River Swim Association.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Kropp coached Towson University's women's swim team
In 2010, Mr. Kropp was feted for his 50 years of teaching at Calvert Hall. Illness forced him to retire in 2012, said Mr. Stembler.
When he wasn't in the classroom or in the water, Mr. Kropp enjoyed archaeology, looking for fossils in Southern Maryland and collecting mint coins.
Mr. Kropp fulfilled a lifelong dream when he was able to take a cruise to Alaska last month with his wife and a daughter.
Mr. Kropp was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues, Towson, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday.
In addition to his wife, who retired from Calvert Hall where she had been the administrative assistant to the principal, Mr. Kropp is survived by a son, Robert J. Kropp of Glen Arm; two daughters, Barbara A. Charen of Anneslie and Susan L. Doyle of Mayfield; a brother, Charles Kropp of North Augusta, S.C.; a sister, Margaret Mary Arthur of Dulaney Valley; and eight grandchildren.