Prof. Richard W. Pohl

klier at cobra.uni.edu klier at cobra.uni.edu
Thu Sep 9 18:05:28 EST 1993

In article <CD3snA.1A3 at news.iastate.edu>, S1.RSW at ISUMVS.IASTATE.EDU (R.S. Wallace) writes:
>             21 May 1916 ------ 3 September 1993
>      It is with sadness that we report the passsing of Distinguished
> Professor Emeritus Richard W. Pohl, 77, on September 3rd, of
> pneumonia.

I was one of the last of Dr. Pohl's grad students... I first met Dr.
Pohl when I was a freshman at Iowa State, thinking about med school
or veterinary medicine.  The phone rang, and a gruff voice at the
other end said he'd heard I knew how to work, and was I interested
in a paying job... if so, stop at his office at 11 am the next day.

"Know anything about plants?"
"no, not really".
"Well, if you want this job, you need to take plant taxonomy.  It's
offered next quarter.  Drop something and sign up for it".

Dr Pohl's plant tax course opened the world of plants to me.  No longer
were they the faceless green blobs on the landscape, but recognizable,
_keyable_ entities.  And though my initial tasks at the herbarium were
a bit mundane (sacking PDB for herbarium cases and gluing annotation
labels on for Gerrit Davidse), I progressed to mounting, strapping,
filing, hanging over Judy LaMotte's shoulders as she did illustrations
for Dr. Pohl's Costa Rican grasses...)

By the time I was a senior, I was hooked on plant taxonomy.  That was
the year Dr. Pohl was president of ASPT, and gave a special seminar,
into which some [still anonymous ;-)] grad student had inserted a
special slide:  Dr. Pohl's head on Burt Reynold's centerfold from
Cosmopolitan, with an appropriate background of herbarium cases,
a handlens around the neck, and a strategically placed herbarium
sheet.  There was a moment of silence when that slide appeared on
the screen, then with a "Hmph", Dr. Pohl continued.

It seems that whenever a few taxonomists gather, and someone learns
you're from Iowa State, the Dr. Pohl stories begin...  the time when
James Payne Smith announced he smelled smoke, and Dr. Pohl took off
on a dead run to check the herbarium.   His fire instructions to me:
"Grab all the type specimens you can and get out"...  Mailing popcorn
to him in Costa Rica ... Peanut butter and triscuits, the all-purpose
field lunch...  Lettuce: "Expensive water!"... the "bamboozled" t-shirt...
The drunken undergrad who called one night to threaten Dr. Pohl
if he didn't pass the course: the threat was to water the greenhouse 

I think I speak for his students when I say he is remembered with
great affection, and perhaps a small touch of exasperation.

Kay Klier
Director, Martin L Grant Herbarium  (ISTC)
University of Northern Iowa

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