Fantastic Fifty: Professor Roeder’s Five Decades of Service to Moravian College

Photo by Sara Weidner

Photo by Sara Weidner

Piles of papers, stacks of books, and framed pictures of family and friends filled every nook and cranny in the small, yet cozy office of Dr. Edward Roeder, an associate professor of physics at Moravian College. His paper-packed office is the sign of his lifelong dedication to his career, memories he has made along the way, and the extensive knowledge he communicates to his students.

Dedicating fifty years to teaching is impressive in and of itself. Dedicating fifty years to the same institution is even more remarkable. This year, Professor Roeder has accomplished both feats at Moravian College. In celebration, the College held a tree planting and dedication ceremony beside the Begina Garden on South Campus on October 7.

A Lehigh Valley native, Dr. Roeder earned his BS in Physics from Lafayette and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Lehigh University. His love for physics was born in a high school physics class, one of his favorite subjects. However, when he arrived at Lafayette, he had a very different experience.

“Ironically, I found that college physics didn’t have too much resemblance to high school physics,” said Roeder in a recent interview. “But I went ahead with it; I struggled with it, and it turned out to be what I wanted to do.”

He arrived at Moravian College while was still completing his graduate work at Lehigh. At Moravian, he worked part time, helping with 3 labs and an introductory physics course. Moravian had always held an attraction for him: the people, the activities, and the atmosphere in general. When a full-time position opened up, he was offered it immediately, since he was already well-known and respected on campus.

“I was delighted and said yes immediately,” Roeder said. “I found something here that I liked, and I seized the opportunity to work in a place where I would enjoy doing what I wanted to do. And I stayed, not thinking that 50 years later I would still be at Moravian. I think my situation is unique because I was at one institution for 50 years. It’s not the 50 years that’s so special; it’s the fact that it has been 50 years at one school.”

Reflecting on the relationships he has had with members of the physics department, Roeder couldn’t help but smile. “It has always been a great department to work in,” he said. “We don’t always all agree; we can agree to disagree. But we are harmonious, we get along. We are kind of, in a sense, unusual in that respect, too.”

The apple tree planted in Benigna Garden in Roeder’s honor is a nod to Isaac Newton, who is said to have developed the theory of gravity when an apple fell on his head. The dedication ceremony was organized by junior physics major Shane Hansen.

Commenting on the ceremony, Roeder said, “President Grigsby was actually blown away by how long I have been here. When Grigsby graduated in 1990, I had already been teaching here for 23 years!”

Dr. Roeder has seen 6 presidents come and go during his time at the college. The Rev. Dr. Raymond S. Haupert was Moravian’s president when Dr. Roeder first began working here.

Dr. Roeder is currently writing a problem-solving book on beginner-level physics.“It’s a supplement to a textbook, so it can be compared to a physics workbook in tutorial format, with details on every step you’d need to know to solve any problem in any specific area of physics,” Roeder said.

Working with him on the book are independent study students, as well as those on work study. In total, 5 people are involved and hope to see the book completed by the end of the year.

Like most other beginning teachers, Dr. Roeder’s goal initially was to inspire his students to accomplish great things. This goal, however, did not play out exactly as he imagined. Wistfully remembering his first years as a professor, Roeder said, “In college I was thinking ahead to what I wanted to do when I got out, and that was to teach. What I discovered later was that in spite of everything I could do, I could not make a success out of every single student who came my way. The realization hit me a little bit hard, but now I accept the fact that I do my best and make the best out of as many students as I can.”

Now that he has been teaching for quite some time, Professor Roeder chuckled when asked what his biggest student pet peeve was.

“I wish they’d tell me at the beginning of the semester what I’m not doing or what bothers them. Tell me rather than waiting until course evaluations. Why wait until I have no chance to change it?” Roeder said.

When Dr. Roeder is not grading papers or conducting physics labs, he can be found in his garden. Another activity he likes is taking science into local schools.

“It’s very rewarding to share with young people the enthusiasm we have about science,” he said.

Dr. Roeder’s advice to Moravian students stems from years of experience and knowledge of the world of academia.

“Take your education seriously. Work to your capacity. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. Be curious. Give it your best shot. Don’t do it halfway; be immersed in it. This faculty is unusual in the sense that they are more than willing to give help to students when they need it. Also, you can’t study 100% of the time. Find a nice balance between social life and studying.”

Finally, and perhaps the most poignantly,  Dr. Roeder explained what he will miss most about Moravian when he eventually retires.

“The students,” he said without hesitation. “That’s what keeps me going.”