Mr. Loh-it-All" />
The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Mr. Loh-it-All

Mr. Loh-It-All

Beloved science teacher passes away after a year and a half battle with ALS

The academic side of Hockaday is defined by its faculty. Students learn from teachers who have a clear passion for what they do, who encourage them to go beyond the classroom in the pursuit of knowledge and who instill a passion for something they wouldn’t have pursued on their own. One of these teachers was Pete Lohstreter.

THE LATE physics teacher Pete Lohstreter taught at Hockaday for 12 years. Photo provided by Charlotte Hoskins

After a year and a half struggle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease, Lohstreter passed away on Aug. 15, 2012.

A Hockaday teacher for 12 years, Lohstreter’s legacy is scattered across the school in various projects and organizations, a few of the most impactful being the meteorology class he introduced to Hockaday, the weather station that still monitors Hockaday’s weather today and the solar panels that now power the greenhouse on campus.

“The solar panels and weather station were both sources of frustration and joy to Pete,” physics teacher Richard Taylor, a longtime friend and fellow physics teacher of Lohstreter, said. “He turned a piece of metal junk that had been sitting in the hallway for years into his baby, he found the people and the software and just did it.”

Also the head of JETS, Hockaday’s engineering and science club, Lohstreter encouraged the girls to pursue the task on their own without his assistance and pushed the girls to try new things.

“Mr. Loh would never give us the answer, but he would always give us little hints and ideas off of which we could springboard. He really knew how to guide us,” said Giovanna Diaz ‘12, a four-year member of JETS. “Once I decided that I wanted to build my own pair of stilts, and Mr. Loh let me. After I had finished, he let me walk around the science building in my homemade stilts, on the condition that I wore knee pads.”

Known for his infectious excitement within the realm of science, Lohstreter was truly famous in the Hockaday community for his ability to make physics, an often daunting subject, understandable to 14 and 15 year old girls, earning him the nickname of ‘Mr. Loh-it-all.’

“Even though physics is sort of a man’s field, he never made the girls feel that way,” Dr. Beverly Lawson, chair of the science department, said.  “He made it accessible to them. His only child was a daughter, and he was very tuned in to how to teach and interact with girls.”

In fact for junior Channing, Lohstreter not only triggered intrigue in the subject of physics, but established such a passion for the subject that Tucker currently plans to major in physics in college, and eventually turn it into her career.

“He had a way of explaining concepts that I had agonized for ages over in the most simple of ways. It was incredible,” Channing said. “I’d spend hours trying to work a concept out and he always made it sound like it was ‘the square block goes into the square hole’ level of problem after he finished explaining. He showed me the universe is much simpler and yet at the same time much more complex than I thought it to be.”

In addition to his ability to translate knowledge, Lohstreter was also famous around the school for his understated sense of humor.

Photo provided by Charlotte Hoskins

“It took his students a while to learn his jokes, but I think his jokes were one of the best things about him,” Dr. Barbara Fishel, Dean of Studies, said.

Even those teaching Middle School will remember Lohstreter through his humor.

“I remember this one time kindergarteners were walking through the science hallway, and they gathered around him in a circle, and all he said was ‘oh look, a human play-pen,’” said eighth grade science teacher Olga O’Reilly.

Lohstreter’s humor also extended to his students, especially those who logged hours upon hours trying to understand seemingly impossible material.

“He used to have balloon planets hanging from the ceiling in his classroom, and one day I was standing on a desk and accidentally popped Earth,” said junior Anna, “pretty much every day after that he would make fun of me for ‘killing Earth.’”

Channing also added that all her physics notes were “peppered with ‘Mr. Loh-isms’” that she jotted down in the midst of class discussion.

But out of all these attributes, Lohstreter’s most striking quality was his unwavering generosity, according to Lawson. Last spring while attending NASA’s final space shuttle launch, a trip sponsored by his advisory, Lohstreter continued to think of others.

“Even though it was a dream come true for him, he still was thinking about all of us and brought each member of the science department a bronze emblem commemorating the launch, ” Lawson said. “I know I’m not the only one who will cherish that memento forever.”

Extending education beyond the classroom, Lohstreter will be remembered in snapshot moments where he enriched the Hockaday community and those around him. Many students will cherish their memories of him: from listening in on a discussion between him and Richard Taylor about the abstract ideas of the universe to begging him for assistance on a seemingly impossible webassign or watching him finish his final year at Hockaday with unrivaled bravery after his diagnosis.

Collectively, the Hockaday Community has shown that he will be remembered as a man who was a role model by example, and a man who truly knew it all.


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    GretchenSep 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Great job Molly!! Great article to remember Mr. Loh