Alan S. Wingrove

[Age 67] The Towson University chemistry professor was a rock music fan who grew prize-winning orchids.

January 13, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Alan S. Wingrove, who taught chemistry at Towson University for more than 30 years and whose interests ranged from growing exotic orchids to attending Grateful Dead concerts, died of cancer Friday at his Lutherville home. He was 67.

Dr. Wingrove was born and raised in Hanford, Calif., and earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1960. In 1964, he earned a master's degree in organic chemistry from the University of California at Los Angeles.

After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, Dr. Wingrove joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin in 1965.

FOR THE RECORD - An obituary in Saturday's editions incorrectly identified the degree that Alan S. Wingrove earned from the University of California at Los Angeles. He received a doctorate in organic chemistry in 1964.
The Sun regrets the errors.

"Even though he had been named outstanding teaching assistant three times as a graduate student, he told me that it wasn't until he was at Texas that he realized his true calling was not research, but teaching," said Ann Kolakowski, a longtime friend and editor of the Goucher Quarterly.

After leaving Texas in 1971, Dr. Wingrove wrote an organic chemistry textbook published by Harper and Row.

In 1973, he joined the chemistry department at what is now Towson University and the following year, was named department chairman. One of his earliest decisions was to hire Dr. Robert Caret, the university's current president, as assistant professor of organic chemistry.

"He was a very interesting guy who marched to a different drummer. He was the quintessential '60s child who remained one into his 60s," Dr. Caret said yesterday.

Dr. Wingrove eschewed the typical tweedy professorial style of dress in favor of colorful tie-dyed T-shirts inspired by his affection for the Grateful Dead.

"You never saw him without one of those shirts. He wore them everywhere, except to funerals. He once said if he ever wore a three-piece suit, no one would know who he was," George Kram, a former student and TU chemistry department laboratory manager, said with a laugh.

"He'd show up in class wearing his tie-dyes which helped take the edge off for his students. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and made the students feel comfortable," Mr. Kram said. "And he was such a good teacher that he could teach organic chemistry to a rock. He just didn't lecture, he took a personal interests in all of his students."

Dr. Caret added: "He loved what he was doing, and it showed. He was always there for his students, colleagues and friends. He was a person who could change lives; after all, he hired me."

In his more than 30 years at the university, Dr. Wingrove helped build the chemistry department and held many leadership roles at the university.

"He was not only loved but revered by generations of students," said Dr. Richard Preisler, current TU chemistry department chair. "As a teacher, he was able to make the difficult comprehensible. He was such a cool guy that he'd even include rock lyrics on his exams."

Dr. Wingrove, who had been on medical leave for the last year, was a man of varied interests. In addition to attending hundreds of rock concerts, he was a master bridge player and enjoyed visiting Atlantic City casinos.

Dr. Wingrove's home on West Seminary Avenue was something of a local landmark with its two-story illuminated greenhouse that he had built to to cultivate thousands of orchids, many of which were prize winners.

"Al didn't dabble in anything. When he developed an interest -- and he had many of them -- he pursued it full-throttle," Ms. Kolakowski said.

He was married for seven years to the former Eileen Katsimpiris, a TU chemistry graduate, who died in 2001.

Services were private.

Surviving are two stepdaughters, Fran Z. Katsimpiris of Ridge- leigh and Nichola Katsimpiris-Wallace of Sykesville; an aunt, Ellen Wingrove Strader of Corvallis, Ore.; and a step-grandson.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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