People today tend to forget that we also had some unusually gifted faculty members when the university was a private institution. Some also had particular distinguishing traits. One such professor was Vivian Pound, whom I had for an advanced mathematics course. He was what authors mean when they write about absent-minded professors. He’d get so absorbed in a problem he’d sometimes forget what was going on around him.
We had a class—I think it was Differential Equations—and the bell rang as a problem was being done on the board. It wasn’t quite done, but everyone left except Vivian Pound. He was a real scholar. He wanted the problem finished, so he did so himself just as I came back to the room to reclaim a forgotten notebook.
One day, a member of the medical faculty was leaving the Main Street campus just before Vivian did. Vivian, apparently engrossed in some problem, followed the other fellow’s car to a medical supply store on Main Street. When the doctor got out of his car, he was surprised to see Vivian parked behind him, and he asked him, “What are you doing here, Vivian?” Vivian looked around and said, “I don’t know. I didn’t want to come here.”
Some years later, I joined the faculty and met Robert Pound, Vivian’s son, who was earning his baccalaureate degree at UB. Bob went on to have a very distinguished career in physics, even becoming chairman of that department at Harvard, despite not having obtained his doctorate. The reason for the latter was not due to absent-mindedness, however. He was so involved in research, he simply did not have the time or inclination to complete the other requirements for a doctorate.
Charles M. Fogel received his B.A. in 1935 and his M.S. in physics in 1938 from UB. He was also a member of the UB faculty from 1941 to 1944 (physics) and from 1946 to 1984 (engineering).