Robert Ogilvie

Robert Ogilvie, right, teaches footwork during a figure skating class in April 2006. Ogilvie, 97, died Nov. 18, and a memorial service will be held for him Friday. (Matt Roth / Patuxent Publishing / April 22, 2006)

Robert Ogilvie spent thousands of hours in front of his television screen, watching videotapes of his figure skating students alongside those of national, international and Olympic competitors.

The British-born World War II veteran, former prisoner of war and internationally renowned figure skater had settled down in Baltimore in 1960, beginning a lifelong devotion to teaching his craft. He died Nov. 18 at 97, and a memorial service will be held for him at the Cathedral of the Incarnation at 4 East University Parkway on Friday at 5 p.m.

"In his teaching relationships with his students, I really think that he wanted every student to kind of actualize all their potential in skating," said Robin Williams, a student of Ogilvie's from age 7 through 18, then a colleague and friend for 50 years. "I always got a sense from him that he thought anyone could learn how to skate and that he wanted to really help them actualize that potential."

Ogilvie and his late wife, Joan, traveled the world figure skating together. They transitioned to teaching at the then-Northwest Ice Rink in Mount Washington for decades, imparting an analytical mindset to generations of figure skaters. Robert Ogilvie also wrote several books and contributed to the Professional Skaters Association magazine.

The Ogilvies worked with students from childhood through early adulthood, and sometimes for decades beyond.

"It's fair to say that my parents were not really focused on pushing the students to compete," said Nigel Ogilvie, his son. "The people who are coming to this memorial service will be celebrating the fact that Dad … was a very thoughtful and kind and analytical man who was a very effective diagnostician of skating errors."

The series of Scriptures and hymns at the memorial service will include "The Lord of the Dance," Nigel Ogilvie said.

His father was a great skater, then a great teacher, then a great writer, he said.

"He was also a creative thinker, very open to new ways of thinking and doing things," Williams said. "He was definitely the expert, but he was always in the process of trying to understand something, about movement or about skating."

Williams, a visual arts teacher at St. James Academy in Monkton, saw Ogilvie's mind as not only scientific — he had a documented interest in the biomechanics of movement — but also deeply spiritual.

"Just like he was trying to understand problems in figure skating, he was also seeking to understand problems or questions about the universe," she said.

Ogilvie's greatest influence on Baltimore was nurturing future teachers, Williams said: "For the most part, his teaching was one-on-one. A number of his students went on to become teachers themselves."

That assistance came with high expectations, said Brienne Fiske, 57, a student from the 1960s and '70s who now coaches figure skaters and lives in Towson.

"He was very strict and he really ran a tight ship. He expected complete respect," Fiske said. "We were scared of him because when he got angry, he scared you. You were a little girl, and there was this gentleman with a strong, deep voice and a British accent. But you respected him and you did what you were told. As you got older, you knew that his bark was certainly much louder than his bite, that he was a wonderful person and there was really nothing to be afraid of."

Robert Ogilvie once videotaped one of Fiske's struggling skaters, went home, studied the tape, typed up a report and presented it to Fiske, the student and the student's parents. The student soon landed that problematic jump.

"He loved it," Fiske remembered. "That was what he loved to do: analyze."

mkingjr@baltsun.com

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