George Samuel Alspach Jr.

Biology professor remembered for conducting student research trips to the Caribbean

  • Dr. George Samuel Alspach
Dr. George Samuel Alspach (Handout, Baltimore Sun )
July 06, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

George Samuel Alspach Jr., who taught marine biology at what is now McDaniel College for four decades, died June 30 of complications from pneumonia at Carroll Hospital Center.

The longtime Taylorsville resident was 71.

The son of an insurance company manager and a homemaker, Dr. Alspach was born in Newton, Mass., and raised in Longmeadow, Mass., near Springfield.

After graduation from Longmeadow High School, he attended Boston University and earned his bachelor's degree in 1963 in biology from Antioch College. He earned both a master's in 1967 and his Ph.D. in 1972 in biology from Oregon State University.

He began teaching in 1969 at what was then Western Maryland College, and from 1992 to 1997 was biology department chair. From 1980 to 2001, he was adviser and mentor of the Biology Honor Society.

Dr. Alspach either taught or developed courses in marine biology, oceanography, physiology and nutrition and invertebrate zoology.

"Sam was my best friend. He and I knew each other for 40 years, and during that time drank gallons and gallons of coffee. We just had a very comfortable relationship, and we never had a harsh word," said Richard H. "Rick" Smith Jr., who taught chemistry at the college.

"He was very personable, and the students loved him and he cared about them. He was a competent teacher and loved what he was doing. Sam was always trying to figure out new things," recalled Dr. Smith. "He loved marine biology and taking his students to the Caribbean for tours."

Both men shared a passion for woodworking and fixing things.

"He loved sailboats, and I love powerboats. And we enjoyed working on each other's boats and figuring out problems," Dr. Smith said. "He was from New England and an old salt. He loved being around the water and the Chesapeake Bay."

Wilbur L. "Bill" Long, professor of developmental biology and department chair at McDaniel, was an old friend and colleague.

"I came in 1973, and we worked together until his retirement. He was just tremendous," said Dr. Long. "He was so wonderful to me when I came here. He took me under his wing and taught me the ropes. He was a marvelous mentor for new faculty members and a great colleague to have."

In addition to sailing, Dr. Alspach also was an avid runner. He was a member of the Westminster Road Runners Club and completed 11 50-mile runs and three Iditasport Challenges in Alaska.

Dr. Alspach completed one Iditasport challenge in 1995 with fellow faculty member H. Samuel Case, who retired as dean and provost of McDaniel College.

"He was a rugged outdoorsman. We sailed, camped and backpacked together," said Dr. Case. "The Alaska Iditasport is a grueling 100-mile race that is run in February and over snow. We did it in 36 hours."

Dr. Case said his friend was a good companion to have on the trail and in the classroom.

"He was very knowledgeable and knew all the flora, fauna, geological characteristics and animals," he said. "He was an outstanding teacher. We taught many of the same courses and team-taught. He was a very talented teacher, and his courses always filled up fast."

Dr. Case described his friend as being a "quiet man who had a good sense of humor and who liked to joke around."

For years, Dr. Alspach took his students on January term trips to Belize and the Bahamas.

He retired in 2009.

Dr. Alspach was a communicant of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, 7609 Main St., Sykesville, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.

In accordance with Dr. Alspach's wishes, his ashes will be spread on his "beloved Chesapeake Bay," according to family members.

Surviving are his wife of 12 years, the former Maggie Lantz Clingan; a son, Peter Alspach of Seattle; a daughter, Sarah Deroulde of London; two stepsons, Ross Clingan of Hagerstown and Matthew Clingan of Glen Burnie; a stepdaughter, Kristy Burke of Charlotte, N.C.; two sisters, Lucy O'Connor of Little Compton, R.I., and Carolyn Hunt of Morristown, N.J.; and five grandsons. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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