Juniata magazine 2017 fall winter

Page 74


Remembering Ray Pfrogner ’60 Ray Pfrogner was passionate about physics and physics education. We in the department can remember the innovations he brought to his teaching at Juniata. Probably the greatest influence he had was to bring computers into the laboratory not just as data processors, but to control experiments and collect the data to be processed. Physical Ray Pfrogner ’60 processes could be followed in real time, giving the students a more elevated way of thinking about the results. He was also the first in the department to introduce math and physics software into his upper-level classroom courses. When he took over the electronics course, he introduced printed circuits and devices of greater complexity than the tubes and transistors of devices we knew as youths. His philosophy of physics teaching also bears mentioning. He wanted to get away from cookbook-type experiments and to have students perform physical measurements and then to think deeply about what they were observing. He wanted students to discover for themselves how physical objects behaved under certain circumstances rather than to have the investigation simply illustrate well known physical laws. This mode of teaching was intended to develop curiosity and creativity—characteristics of practicing scientists. He was an effective advisor who encouraged students to discover their own direction through a series of pertinent, probing questions dealing with their interests, abilities, and their educational and career goals. Ray also was active in inviting students to his home for informal get-togethers. Students will remember that he had a penchant for puzzles to be solved and physics “toys” lay about his house waiting for them to be played with.

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Thus Ray made real and lasting contributions to the teaching of physics at Juniata and many of his students have expressed their appreciation to him on their return as alumni. At Ray’s memorial service, Nobel Laureate William Phillips spoke in tribute to Ray’s teaching, saying that he had learned a lot of physics from Ray before he went on to MIT. — Wilfred Norris ’54, professor emeritus of physics, and Norm Siems, professor emeritus of physics


Ray Pfrogner ’60, professor emeritus of physics at Juniata College and a resident of Huntingdon, Pa. from 1964 until his retirement in 1997, died July 5, at age 81. A native of Meyersdale, Pa., Pfrogner graduated from Somerset High School and attended Juniata from 1952 to 1954. Military service intervened, and he served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1958. Upon his separation from the military, he returned to Juniata in 1959 and graduated the following year. His first job after graduation took him to Antarctica in 1961, where he worked as a geophysicist for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (now known as the National Geodetic Survey), the federal agency responsible for mapping and charting transportation and communication systems, as well as other scientific and engineering applications. During his assignment in the Antarctic, Pfrogner had to be evacuated due to a medical emergency. He elected to go to graduate school and earned a master’s degree in physics in 1964 from the University of Delaware. He joined the Juniata faculty in 1964, teaching physics. He earned his doctoral degree from Delaware in 1971, during the time he taught at the College. Pfrogner remained an avid tennis player for most of his life and coached Juniata’s women’s tennis team. He also traveled extensively visiting all seven continents. Indeed, one of the continents he visited, Antarctica, features a point of land, Pfrogner Point, located at primary latitude 72º 37’ 00” S, primary longitude 089º 35’ 00” W, that is named for him in recognition of his work there.