Cheryl Lynn Tropf, 57, accountant, physicist

April 06, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Cheryl Lynn Tropf, an accountant and former physicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Wednesday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Highland resident was 57.

Born Cheryl Lynn Griffiths in Newark, N.J., and raised in Fairfax, Va., she earned a physics degree from the College of William & Mary, where she played varsity field hockey and belonged to Kappa Delta sorority and Phi Beta Kappa.

She was named the outstanding student of her Georgetown University class while earning a master's degree in accounting. She earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Tropf received two National Science Foundation undergraduate research grants and other graduate fellowships. She also joined the Sigma Pi Sigma physics honors society, Sigma Xi for scientific research and the Lynchos, the University of Virginia women's honor society.

Joining APL in 1973, Dr. Tropf studied the effectiveness of guided missiles and the electromagnetic properties of wakes produced by submarines. She simultaneously taught graduate mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University.

From 1980 to 1981, she was a congressional science fellow with the Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. She was subsequently hired by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and managed nuclear power plants, including the reactor in Haddam Neck, Conn.

About 20 years ago, she made a career change that would allow her to spend more time with her son. She opened a practice in Columbia as a certified public accountant and had many commercial clients in Howard County.

"She was a practical person," said her husband of 35 years, Bill Tropf, also a physicist. "She designed our house. She made her own clothes. She was also interested in finance and wanted more control over her time. She set up her own business so she could she could do her own scheduling."

He said his wife arranged her accounting work around her son's Boy Scout activities, volunteered in his schools and attended his Atholton High School sports competitions, including cross-country and track-and-field events.

In 1980, Dr. Tropf was named to the Howard County Commission for Women and was later its chairwoman. She was also a member of the County Landlord-Tenant Relations Task Force.

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce named her one of 10 outstanding businesswomen in the mid-1980s. In 1988, Howard's chapter of the American Business Woman's Association selected her as Businesswoman of the Year.

For many years, she was active in the Howard County Striders running club. She officiated at high school championship running meets and managed the Junior Striders track-and-field and cross-country teams.

She was a member of the Howard County General Hospital Finance Committee and volunteered at the Howard County Business Development Center.

In her free time, Dr. Tropf read newspapers and often subscribed to out-of-town publications.

Services are private.

In addition to her husband, survivors include her son, Zach Tropf of Columbia; her mother, Shirley Griffiths of Fairfax, Va.; and a brother, Kent Griffiths of Alexandria, Va.

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