Q & A
Fred Grosse, Professor of Physics
The 2009–10 academic year marks Fred Grosse’s 50th year at Susquehanna as a professor of physics. He joined the faculty in 1960, when physics professors were in high demand because of the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957. In the decades that followed, Grosse was instrumental in bringing computers to Susquehanna and teaching students how to use them. He also coached tennis and became known for riding his bicycle to campus regardless of the weather conditions. Grosse recently shared some of his memories with Susquehanna Currents.
SC: What is one of the more drastic changes you’ve seen occur on campus?
FG: There are several––new buildings, the use of computers, the size of the student body––but the one that sticks out for me is telephones. In 1960, we had no phones in my building. If my wife wanted to call me and tell me to come home for supper at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m., she had to call Selinsgrove Hall and the secretary of that building would have to come over and get me in Steele Hall, and I’d have to go answer the phone over there. Now there are phones on every person that walks by.
SC: What’s one of the more memorable experiences you’ve had at Susquehanna?
FG: The chapel was built about the fifth year I was here. That’s a neat story. When they wanted to put the steeple on it, they brought in a crane to reach over the big roof of the lower chapel. I had my physics class calculate whether the crane––knowing the weight of the steeple––could reach over and set it down. We found it couldn’t, and sure enough, when they tried to set it down, it started tilting. They finally had to use a helicopter to get it on there, and the whole campus was there to watch. The kids figured out what to do with the crane. The next day when we arrived on campus, the crane had 150 brassieres strung from the top of it.
SC: Do you have any thoughts of retiring?
FG: Yes, I think it’s getting to be time to retire. I think maybe next year will be my last year. That will be 51 years, and Susquehanna is 153. That means I’ll have taught for exactly one-third of the university’s history. I’ll quit there.
SC: What do you enjoy most about teaching?
FG: The best thing about teaching is when you sit down and work on a problem with students who don’t understand what you’re talking about, and suddenly you watch the lights go on in their eyes and they say, “I get it.” That’s what’s really fun about teaching––that and picking on them.
Contributing writers to The ‘Grove section are Karen Jones, assistant director of media relations, and Heather Cobun ‘10, a communications and political science major from Eldersburg, Md.