Robert Lincoln Smith, a science teacher at Polytechnic Institute for 40 years, died Sunday of bladder cancer at Stella Maris Hospice Center in Timonium. He was 90 and a resident of the Edenwald retirement community since 1986.
A Baltimore native, Mr. Smith began teaching upon his graduation from Forest Park High School in 1930. After several years in various city schools, he joined the faculty at Poly - remaining until his retirement in 1975.
"He was always smiling," said Barbara Stricklin, a fellow teacher who is now executive director of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Foundation. "No amount of student hijinks would get him bent out of shape."
"He was absolutely straightforward with [students]," Ms. Stricklin said. "He could take complicated ideas in science and make them understandable."
Former colleague Stuart Mahn said Mr. Smith was often asked to teach underachievers. "He was gifted at dealing with difficult students," he said. "He was able to reach the students, and they respected him."
Mr. Smith also advised the senior class for 27 years.
"He loved teaching," said his daughter, Roberta Jones of Timonium. "We would go to Ocean City on vacation ... and we couldn't go a block without someone flagging him down and asking, 'Do you remember me?'"
Years after he retired, Mrs. Jones said, her father loved to share anecdotes about his teaching days.
Yolanda Norgard, a fellow resident at Edenwald, recalled enjoying Mr. Smith's stories and his outgoing personality. "He told us a joke every day," she said. "He had a good one every day."
Mr. Smith lived in Baltimore until the mid-1950s, when he moved to Timonium.
He earned his bachelor's degree and two master's degrees from the University of Maryland by taking classes at night and in the summer.
Mr. Smith was a member of the Phi Delta Kappa education honor society and Iota Lambda industrial arts fraternity. He served as vice president of the Shipleys of Maryland, a group of families that trace their ancestry in the United States to the early 1700s. He was also a member of Waverly Lodge 152 of the Masons, the Scottish Rite and Boumi Temple.
Mr. Smith's wife of 64 years, Ruth Junkins, died in 1998. She was also a teacher, and the two enjoyed traveling during their summer vacations. After retirement, they continued to travel and organized group trips. Their destinations included South America, Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
The couple also taught fabric painting at Bykota Senior Center, and Mr. Smith enjoyed reading mysteries, gardening and chauffeuring his grandchildren to extracurricular activities.
A memorial service will be held at 10:15 a.m. Oct. 1 at Edenwald, 800 Southerly Road, Towson.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Smith is survived by a sister, Alma Smith of New Orleans, and two granddaughters.