Two long-time faculty are remembered
February 4, 2013Tweet
Binghamton University lost one long-time faculty member in December and another in early January. Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences Herbert Posner died Friday, Dec. 14, and Associate Professor Emerita of Music Roberta Schlosser died Sunday, Jan. 6. Colleagues and friends remind us that these two, along with many others, helped create the foundation of excellence that Binghamton University has grown from.
A Yale-trained plant physiologist, Posner joined the faculty at Binghamton in 1964, and became a highly regarded and well-liked teacher of introductory biology courses including introductory cell and molecular biology, plant physiology and bioethics. Known in particular for his innovations in teaching large classes, in 1978 he was recognized with a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Anna Tan-Wilson, distinguished professor of biological sciences, recalls that his courses were always highly subscribed and his students loved him and his sense of humor. The correct answer to one multiple-choice question he would sometimes put on his exams was an abbreviation of the very long name of an enzyme − rubisco. “He would have four or five possible answers to the question that would make the students figure it out,” said Tan-Wilson, “but he would lighten things up by making one of the choices ‘biscuit company’ (Nabisco) so the students could keep on going during the test.”
Tan-Wilson said Posner was co-principal investigator on two educational initiative grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to improve the undergraduate biology curriculum, and for a grant from the National Science Foundation to integrate the natural sciences and mathematics with the humanities and social sciences.
He realized education was evolving and saw that students were often stronger when they studied together and learned from each other, said Tan-Wilson, so he helped integrate a more collaborative, cooperative style of teaching in both the classroom and in labs.
“So when HHMI came along, we used the collaborative learning situation and moved it into a lab situation, that actually at the time was very avant guarde,” Tan-Wilson said. “He was cited for doing inquiry-driven projects in intro labs to hundreds of students. That was where Herb did a lot and he kept on adding to that and enriching it. Our students are always clamoring to get into our labs. We had begun a spirit of ‘let’s give students hands-on’ and Herb helped do that even on a large scale.”
Posner, a devoted family man, was very even tempered and low key, Tan-Wilson added. “He was not someone who would bring attention to himself, but when we would write those grant proposals that could be no more than 20 pages, double-spaced, I would write and keep writing and writing and he would chop out every single thing that didn’t matter. I would say to him ‘Herb, you chopped out the soul!’ But his editing told me what was the absolute most important information to included and I would add a little of the emotion back in and we would keep doing that. We got two HHMI grants from it.”
Posner retired in 2000, and was named a Bartle Professor. He and his wife, Rita, moved to Silver Spring, Md., in 2004, to be closer to their daughters. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and three grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to American Jewish World Service, Union of Concerned Scientists or to Doctors Without Borders.
Roberta Schlosser, 94, associate professor emerita of music, died Jan. 6, at Lourdes Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree in voice pedagogy, her master’s degree in music literature and her PhD in theory and interdisciplinary music education from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. She joined the Binghamton faculty in 1963 and was a founder of Binghamton’s vocal program, teaching voice, vocal literature, theory and opera until her retirement in 1987.
“When we recruited her, she was the first studio person we had aside from a chairman who was also a pianist,” said Harry Lincoln, professor emeritus of music.” She was a very competent and talented person in the department. She had PhD in music theory, so she not only taught voice, she taught music theory. It was very interesting to have a person with that coupled background.”
Lincoln considered her a very skilled voice teacher who “had the long-range interests of the students as her main concern. There is a tendency oftentimes to push a student too fast in voice and she was very careful about that,” he said.
Schlosser was among the team of faculty who hired David Clatworthy in 1971. Now professor emeritus of music, he remembers Schlosser as diminutive in stature, but very strong and organized. “She was very committed to her students and to their outcomes and their vocal growth,” he said. “She was a force, a very dedicated teacher.” Though she herself was not a performer, she studied voice and “was a pedagogue who knew a great deal about singing methods who was an ideal fit at that time.
“She was an amazing lady and very determined to get things done her way,” Clatworthy added. “I give her all the credit. When we decided in about 1977 or 1978, to have the collaborative program with the Tri Cities Opera, she was one of the founding faculty members who saw that put together.”
Lincoln recalled Schlosser’s skill in evaluating the potential of a voice in a student. “I say the voice is the hardest instrument to teach and I say voice is difficult to teach because the instrument is inside the person,” he said. “She handled our voice area for years before we had a second person.
She was also very kind, said Lincoln. “At one point, my daughter had a talent for a particular kind of singing and I asked Roberta if she would listen and evaluate her. Rather than just spending 20 minutes with my daughter, she gave her about three lessons to get a feel of the potential she had.”
“Back in 1984, the rule was that faculty had to retire at 70. Roberta Schlosser was in no way ready or willing to retire; she did so reluctantly; her work was her life,” said Mary Burgess, associate professor of voice, who was hired to replace Schlosser. “Despite her feelings about retirement, Roberta didn’t take it out on me; she took me under her wing as her new project, and made sure I learned everything she felt I should know.
“Roberta taught me how the University works; she taught me about credits and teaching loads; she taught me how to get the job done in a liberal arts setting rather than the conservatory setting which was my background,” Burgess said. “She was a genius at organization, and I followed her methods for years, until computers changed the way we all do things. She stayed on as a Bartle professor for five years, and in that time I learned so much from her.”
Burgess continued to turn to Schlosser for help and advice after Schlosser retired.
“She went right to the heart of any matter and was very succinct in her analysis of any situation, and she was right on target every time,” Burgess said. “I so appreciated her unfiltered remarks! What a clear head she had. There was no nonsense about Professor Schlosser, that’s for sure!”