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Remembering Ken Tarby, Materials Science and Engineering

Wise teacher and trusted adviser, dedicated administrator and Carnac the Magnificent, Stephen Kenneth “Ken” Tarby, who died in November at the age of 82, filled many roles and played them all with relish and competence in 41 years on the Lehigh faculty.

“Ken Tarby was a true gentleman and a devoted and dedicated teacher, highly respected by the faculty and loved by students,” said his colleague Martin P. Harmer, professor of materials science and engineering. “He was indeed one of Lehigh’s finest and a steady rock for our department for years.

“We were all spoiled in having Ken as our associate chair, especially when it came to undergraduate advising. When an undergraduate student asked me for advice, all I had to say was three magic words—‘see Dr. Tarby!’”

“Ken was a dear friend for over 30 years,” said Sharon Coe, event coordinator for the materials science and engineering department. “He was the rock of the department—dependable, likeable, honest, funny and a real gentleman.”

“The welfare of all materials science undergraduates was very important to Ken,” said Charles Lyman, professor of materials science and engineering. “Even after he retired, he reviewed the schedules of our students, noting any deficiencies that needed correcting. And walking into his office, you were immediately put at ease as the classical music on his radio soothed you.”

Tarby joined the faculty of the department of materials science and engineering in 1961, when it was called the department of metallurgical engineering. Over the next four decades, he won kudos for his scholarship in thermodynamics and for his ability to teach difficult concepts to students. He also served his department as interim chair, as associate chair for more than 20 years and as the R.D. Stout Professor of materials science and engineering.

“When we arrived in Bethlehem in 1997, Ken and Gloria [Tarby’s wife] were among the first to welcome us,” said Slade Cargill, former department chair of materials science and engineering. “Ken was encouraging, thoughtful and cheerful. His was concerned for the well-being of students, staff and faculty, and he was always a good friend.”

“As a graduate student, I had Ken for the most difficult graduate class—thermodynamics,” said John N. DuPont ’94G ’97 Ph.D., the current R.D. Stout Professor of materials science and engineering. “Ken was, without a doubt, one of the most talented, caring and down-to-earth teachers I had the pleasure of knowing. He was an outstanding communicator who had the special ability to take the most complicated subjects and describe them in a way that made them easy to understand.

“More importantly, his genuine enthusiasm for teaching was inspiring, and his care for students was always obvious. He was delighted when students asked for help, and he displayed incredible patience as students required time to grasp the complicated topics he was teaching.”

Read the full story at the Lehigh University News Center.

-Kurt Pfitzer is Manager of Editorial Services with Lehigh University's Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

November 23, 2016

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