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Theodore O. Poehler, Johns Hopkins teacher and researcher, dies

Scientist, researcher and faculty member spent more than 60 decades at Johns Hopkins.

Theodore O. Poehler, a materials scientist and professor who spent six decades at the Johns Hopkins University, died of complications from cancer Saturday at Ridgeway Manor Nursing Home.

The Catonsville resident was 81.

"He was an institution here at Hopkins," said Ed Schlesinger, the Benjamin T. Rome dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. "In his 60-plus years he was a student, teacher, researcher and administrator. These are rare individuals. He was proud of his contributions to the university."

Born in Baltimore and raised on Kenyon Avenue, he was the son of Theodore Otto Poehler Sr., a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. worker, and Marion Rhode, a homemaker.

A 1952 graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Poehler was 16 when he enrolled at Johns Hopkins. When interviewed in 2007 for a university publication, he said he "took a fairly eclectic program as an undergraduate. " He began in chemistry and changed to electrical engineering.

He received his doctorate at Hopkins in 1961, the year he met his future wife, Anne Evans, while playing tennis on the Clifton Park courts.

While at Hopkins he joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. He became an Army Ballistic Research Laboratory researcher at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where he completed his military service.

Dr. Poehler joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County and worked 26 years in roles that included assistant supervisor in the Plasma Dynamics Group, supervisor of the Quantum Electronics Group and director of the Milton S. Eisenhower Research Center.

In the 1980s, he moved to the school's Homewood campus and became director of part-time graduate programs at its Whiting School of Engineering. A decade later, he became the school's associate dean of research and a research professor in electrical and computer engineering and in materials science and engineering. He was vice provost for research from 1992 to 2008.

He remained a teacher until retiring in June.

"One of Ted's central passions was teaching," said Dr. Schlesinger. "He believed that sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for engineering with the next generation was one of the most important things he could contribute to his discipline."

His friends at Johns Hopkins said Dr. Poehler was a font of information about the complexities of research at the school.

"He was friendly, outgoing, personable, kind and gentle," said Howard E. Katz, professor in the materials science and engineering department. "He was a direct communicator and was not afraid to express his opinions. He enjoyed a conversation, whether it was scientific or about sports or society.

"In his classes, he would answer questions thoroughly and entertain a discussion," said Dr. Katz. "When he walked down the halls here, he would look for an open door and see where he could visit for a while."

His university colleagues said he became interested in materials science — focusing on discovery and design of new materials with an emphasis on solids.

Dr. Poehler was the author or co-author of 158 published papers and held 14 patents. He investigated gas lasers, electronic materials, conducting polymers and organic and metallo-organic compounds.

"Materials science has been an exciting area to pursue because it involves a wide range of subjects, including chemistry, physics, theory and cutting-edge laboratory experimentation," he said in a March 2016 Hopkins interview.

"He just enjoyed teaching," said a son, Jeffrey Poehler of Catonsville. "He played tennis until he had back surgery, and then he walked around our Oak Forest neighborhood in Catonsville."

His son said Dr. Poehler enjoyed reading science fiction and historical novels.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Johns Hopkins Club on the Homewood campus.

In addition to his son and his wife of nearly 55 years, a homemaker and Kernan Hospital volunteer, Dr. Poehler's survivors include another son, Theodore O. Poehler III, also of Catonsville; and two grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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