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Beloved philosophy professor passes away

20 September 2012 By Brandi Bottalico, Associate News Editor 2 Comments

Just last semester, senior Gabrielle Carroll took environmental ethics with professor Paul Pojman and developed a close bond with him, becoming impassioned with the same issues that he taught.

Pojman insisted that Carroll take his human ecology course the upcoming semester, because she wanted to learn and do more. The class, he promised, would be project-based and they would do things in the ‘real world,’ she said.

“This activism sprouted instantaneously because I met the right people, I met Paul,” Carroll said. “He changed my life.”

She visited Pojman just last week while he laid in the hospital, barely able to talk and then made plans to visit him again this week. But Pojman passed away Wednesday night while undergoing treatment for Stage 4 lung cancer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Weinberg Center.

Pojman was diagnosed with cancer in July and then began undergoing treatment, Anne Ashbaugh, the chair of the philosophy and religious studies said. He gradually grew weaker and took medical leave this semester, she said.

“He was an extraordinary colleague, he is certainly someone that we are going to miss terribly,” she said. “He was a great human being. He was inspiring and loved as a teacher.”

His mother Trudy Pojman notified the philosophy department of his death Thursday morning, Ashbaugh said.

Terry Cooney, dean of the college of liberal arts, sent an email to inform faculty.

“Many of us knew Paul as a normally gentle, quietly passionate colleague with a strong interest in environmental issues in both his academic interests (including the environmental reader he took over from his father and edited in multiple new editions) and in his personal commitments (serving on non-profit boards and investing ample time in urban garden/farm initiatives),” the email read.

Pojman served on the board of directors for the Baltimore Green Currency Association, which developed a local currency that can be used in the Baltimore area to promote local growth. He also was active with Baltimore Free Farm, which promotes ecologically sound and sustainable practices.

In his environmental ethics class, he required his students to do 40 hours of service learning at either BNote or Baltimore Free Farm, former student Courtney Lockwood said.

“He was a really good teacher, he had a huge heart and really cared,” she said. “Every word he said was thought about beforehand, he was very smart.”

Carroll considers herself the closest student to him. Her life began going in a different direction than she ever thought it and she started working with organizations that related to everything Pojman had taught her.

“The way he talked about things so passionately made you believe the same things,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be working for BGCA, without Paul none of this would be happening.”

As he became weaker, he started taping some of his thoughts and notes, Ashbaugh said.

“He was the kind of colleague you could count on and he was very intelligent,” she said.

Two years after his graduation, Sean Collins said he still remembers the lessons that he learned while working with Pojman in his classes.

“He played a big role in my Towson career,” he said. “He made students more conscious of the impact they had, their relationships with one another and the impact they have on society and the world itself.”

Pojman also emphasized community service in an anarchism class he taught and set up an after school program for children where they could go to make music, called the BEAT project, Collins said. In addition, he advised a student group Collins was president and founder of, Towson Energy Action.

“His colleagues and friends will miss his presence among us,” Cooney said. “Students who found him a particularly important mentor may also be deeply affected by the news of his death. Let us be kind to one another and to those who were closest to him.”

There will be a memorial service at the Unitarian Church at 1710 Dulaney Valley Rd. Sept. 28 and is open to anyone in the community. The University is working together with his mother for the memorial and more details about the memorial will come.

Now Carroll sits in her human ecology class and listens to a different professor talk about passions that Pojman had instilled in her.

“He[the new professor]’s really nice, he’s just not Paul,” she said.


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