Firelands professor remembered for honesty, sense of humor

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If laughter really is the best medicine, then John Pommersheim might have been considered the best doctor in his field.

Pommersheim, an associate professor of mathematics at the Firelands campus, died May 22. It is believed Pommersheim died of a heart attack, said Bill Balzer, dean of Firelands.

“He had a dry sense of humor that permeated him whether he was in class, or when he was an associate dean,” Balzer said.

Pommersheim worked at Firelands for more than 25 years and some of his colleagues said his sense of humor was one of his best traits.

“Whenever I was loaded up with stuff to go class, John used to say, ‘Go get them,’” said Victor Odafe, associate professor of mathematics and chair of social science. “It was very, very humorous on his part.”

Pommersheim and psychology professor Chris Mruk both came from Pennsylvania and were colleagues for more than 28 years. Mruk said he also noticed Pommersheim’s gift for making people laugh.

“He was noted for his goodwill, his honesty, his gentleness and a very dry sense of humor,” he said.

When he wasn’t making others smile, Pommersheim had a respect for small details,

Odafe said.

“John was the most organized person I’ve ever met,” he said. “He paid the greatest attention to every detail.”

This attention to detail not only helped him, but others as well, Balzer said.

“He was incredibly well-organized,” he said. “He made it easy for other people to do their jobs — he was just a great administrator for the college.”

Because Firelands doesn’t offer an mathematics major, some students found it difficult to grasp the subject and appreciate Pommersheim as a teacher, Balzer said.

“He was considered to be a very rigorous, but fair teacher who brought students along in a subject they thought was challenging,” he said. “Students would know math when they were done.”

Pommersheim didn’t spoonfeed his students, and had very high standards for them, Odafe said.

“He wanted them to think,” he said. “He cared a lot about his students.”

From July 1992 to June 1999, Pommersheim worked as the chair of the department of Natural and Social Sciences, a role colleague Chris Mruk said Pommersheim excelled in.

“He had a will to take on leadership roles, which the department appreciated,” Mruk said. “He handled student issues, and paid attention to details.”

Mruk said he remembered a time when someone made a comment on Pommersheim’s good style tastes while he was chair.

“He said John had ‘sartorial splendor,’ and that got huge smiles,” Mruk said.

Pommersheim helped the relatively young University from the beginning, Balzer said. The Firelands campus opened Sept. 25, 1968, according to

“He was part of the fabric of who we are,” he said. “We’ll remember all that John gave to the college.”

Pommersheim had numerous titles including interiem associate dean, associate dean, associate professor and he earned the Distinguished Teacher Award.

“He understood all the rules and regulations of the University,” Odafe said. “He was a big resource.”