Retired Centre professor Frederick Loetscher remembered
RELEASED: April 27, 2006
DANVILLE, KY—Centre College lost a beloved teacher and scholar earlier this month when Frederick W. Loetscher, professor emeritus of biology, passed away April 2 at the age of 91.
"He was a very quiet unobtrusive man," recalls Ray Hammond, professor of biology and chairman of the Health and Human Performance program. "Because of that quietness, he fooled you. During his professional life he was completely committed to Centre students.
"I remember Dr. Loetscher mostly as a student," Hammond continues. "He was in the biology department, but he was never a professor of mine. He was, however, a professor of my late wife [Carolyn Gray '67]. She was an English major and a biology minor, and Dr. Loetscher and Paul Cantrell were her two favorite professors. She loved Dr. Loetscher. He was a passionate botanist. He taught botany like it was an essential part of life."
"He was a real gentleman and an excellent teacher," adds Bill Sagar, professor emeritus of chemistry. "Professionally, he was a very good ornithologist. You couldn't ask for a better colleague."
Bill Breeze '45, special assistant to the president for endowment, reports that according to his newly probated will, Dr. Loetscher, leaves Centre $300,000 to be added to its permanent endowment fund to be used for scholarships.
Betsy Sale Sewell '64, a retired biology teacher from Jackson, Ky., wrote the following remembrance of Dr. Loetscher in the Fall 1999 Centrepiece:
"I was fascinated by him from my first day at Centre. He came striding into the room, imperially slim, notes under his arm, his white lab coat fluttering beneath him. I could hardly wait for him to cross the platform so that I could learn more.
"And more did I learn. I learned the long series of steps in the coagulation of blood and the why factor VIII was so important to the Romanovs. I learned about the urachus, a cord leading from the umbilical to the bladder, a cord that I had felt as a skinny young girl, but one that I could no longer find. I learned how a bird could sing double notes because of the structure of its syrinx. I learned why a calico cat was almost always female.
"As his lab assistant I saw him in a different way. I saw the care he took to encourage new students at Centre—and to challenge them. I'll never forget how he once challenged me on a CVA practical, digging to the bottom of the box to find the one frog bone he thought I couldn't identify (the atlas). It was the only perfect score I ever got in any of his classes.
"Dr. Loetscher was not only an exacting teacher, but also an enigmatic one. Was he really shy or just pretending to be when he blushed and averted his eyes as he talked of the sloughing off of the endometrium or of birds tumbling from flight in a cloacal kiss? When he stepped off the platform into the wastebasket was it really accidental or was it really planned? Did he really keep fruit flies in his mustache?
"Since graduation I have taught biology in high school and college. I have tried to emulate his example to challenge, encourage and entertain his students, an example I hope some of my students will follow.
"I would not be who and I am today without Dr. Loetscher's influence. Hardly a day goes by that I do not remember him. I have even named my calico cat Genetics."
Dr. Loetscher's Advocate-Messenger obituary, states that Loetscher graduated with honors from Yale University and was the first person to receive a doctorate of ornithology from Cornell University.
"He was an authority on bird calls and made the first recording of bird calls for Kellogg Sound Laboratory at Cornell University of birds in Australia.
"Loetscher’s lifework involved range studies of birds worldwide and he made approximately 75 world trips studying the range of birds and bird calls. He observed more than 5,000 of the world’s approximately 9,600 species of birds and was an internationally known authority on both bird ranges and bird song, particularly in Australia and Vera Cruz, Mexico.
"In 1966, a new bird of the tanager species was discovered in Mexico and was officially named Loetscheri, in his honor. The bird was described for the first time in the December 1966 issue of the Bulletin of the British Ornithological Club.
"He was the widower of Naomi Prince Loetscher and a World War II veteran, having served in the European Theater with the medical corps. He had served as a deacon and elder at the Presbyterian church and had served as a director of the central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge.
"According to Loetscher’s friend and fellow birder, Bill Kemper of Danville, his wish was to be cremated and his ashes scattered where the birdsong could be heard."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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