For decades, it was easy to spot a faculty member in Materials Science at Commencement: He’d be sporting a shiny bow tie fashioned out of aluminum by Bob Pond Jr. ’65, who co-founded the Materials Department in 1983 with Bob Green.
Pond was known to two generations of Hopkins students as the “Pied Piper of Metallurgy,” in large part owing to the lively but informative “Fun in Metals” lecture that he gave at Hopkins and beyond—to schoolchildren, alumni, and industry groups.
“I’ve given the talk 800 and some times—in Japan, Canada, England, and all over this country,” Pond said in a 1999 interview. “It’s a real joy to tell somebody something new. A lot of engineers don’t like to do this, but I found it an absolute joy. If you can teach somebody something that they’re fascinated with, that they like, it’s like giving a pearl to somebody who really appreciates beautiful things.”
Pond came to Hopkins Engineering in 1947 as a lab technician after serving in World War II and working at Bethlehem Steel. He was accepted into the doctoral program but was quickly called upon to begin teaching the flood of veterans who came to Hopkins under the GI Bill. “I never had time to take any courses, but I loved to teach so I really didn’t mind,” he said later.
“Bob Pond was one of the best teachers at Hopkins Engineering,” recalled Bob Green at the time of Pond’s death in 2007 at the age of 89. “He knew all the things that are in the books, but he also knew the practical side of things from his industry experience. He was friendly and enthusiastic, and as a teacher he was very approachable and kind, even when correcting your mistakes. All the students loved him.”
The house in Westminster that Pond shared with his wife of 65 years, Mary “Dolly” Wright Pond, and their six children let him take his work home. It had started as a little farmhouse, and Pond wrapped a big house around it—but not before he had fashioned three laboratories, two of them underground in the backyard, where he and the kids could play with metals.
With his twinkling eyes and sweetly joking manner, Pond encouraged all his students to explore and ask questions about everything. His passion for metallurgy was infectious, as evidenced by the rapt attention paid him by a group of high school students in 1987, when he wound up his “Fun in Metals” lecture with these words:
“Learn one lesson. Have fun in what you do. Do it with enthusiasm! It doesn’t make any difference if you’re studying your French lesson or you’re hitting your old man up for the car keys on Friday night. Even if you’re telling a joke, do it with enthusiasm.”