Frank Pottenger

Dr. Francis M. Pottenger III passed away on January 4, 2023 at the age of 94. With the College of Education (COE) science and curriculum faculty for 50 years, his contributions and publications in science curriculum design are numerous.

Born in Pasadena, California in 1928, Pottenger was the eldest of four siblings all of whom performed chores for their household, the family farm and dairy, and the well-known Pottenger Sanatorium in Monrovia, California. As a teenager, Pottenger worked alongside his father, taking care of cats and preparing samples for his father’s famous nutritional study known today as Pottenger’s Cats.

Finishing high school in 1945, Pottenger explored the world as a deck hand on a Dutch Merchant Marine tramp steamer. Upon his return, he enrolled at Otterbein College where met the love of his life, Larma McGuire, whom he married in 1950. When she passed away in 2020, the couple was just a few months short of their 70th anniversary.

Frank PottengerAfter earning his BS from Otterbein, Pottenger would go on to earn an MEd from Xavier University, MS from New Mexico Highlands University, and PhD Claremont Graduate School.

Drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Pottenger served as part of the occupation in Japan before joining the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1953 to 1955. He taught math in Japan, then returned to the States to teach biology, chemistry, and physics at the high school and college levels. He would use the GI Bill to further his education in graduate school where he found his calling in science teaching and curriculum development.

Pottenger joined the University Laboratory School (ULS) science faculty in the COE in 1966. He would quickly be promoted within the college from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor with tenure in 1970 before becoming full Professor in 1974. A few years later, he co-founded the Pacific Circle Consortium (PCC), an initiative in international co-operation between educational research and development institutions in the Pacific Region. In 2010, the PCC presented Pottenger with the Arthur R. King Award in Curriculum Innovation.

Among his many professional roles, Pottenger served as the creator and director of the Foundational Approaches in Science Teaching (FAST) project from 1966–1983. This project marked the beginning of science education research at the COE Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), and its legacy of innovative approaches and practices of science continues today.

FAST would become the core philosophy for consequent science programs, including the Developmental Approaches in Science and Health (DASH) and Hawaiʻi Marine Science Studies (HMSS) projects, which Pottenger also directed. Using curricula from these programs, he helped to create integrated STEM education programs with educators in Japan, Korea, Israel, Micronesia, Slovakia, and Russia.

In 1984, Pottenger joined the COE Curriculum and Instruction graduate faculty, followed by a joint appointment as Professor of Education and Public Health (Department of Public Health Sciences) in 1986. He retired in 2015 and was designated Professor Emeritus in 2016.

Pottenger’s family shared that he took great pleasure in the daily stories and adventures of his children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was a mesmerizing storyteller, which made him a popular request at Boy Scout and church camps. He is survived by his four children, 11 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and his sister Margaret. Services will be held in July.

“To me, Frank was a mentor, a colleague, and a pillar in the CRDG ʻohana. The memories I most cherish about Frank are the spontaneous hallway and parking lot conversations we shared. Frank would start with a question like, ‘What marvelous things are going on in the mathematics world?’ That was the spark that made me feel validated and allowed me to see his brilliance. Many of his impromptu ideas were wildly ambitious (to me), yet at the same time, it was exciting and fun to ponder what could be the next cutting-edge endeavor in curriculum research and development. Frank was truly phenomenal.” – CRDG Associate Professor Linda Venenciano

“Frank was someone who accurately could be described as ‘larger than life.’ I first experienced that a dozen years before I took my position at CRDG when I was a graduate student participating in an external evaluation of a CRDG language arts curriculum. I would hear Frank down the hall in his booming voice without really knowing exactly who he was. Later, I got to know him as the lanky ever-smiling science-theorist who was always supportive of me and my work. Toward the end of his time at CRDG, he wrote a tome about inquiry-based science that I always thought should be published as an exemplar in the field. His dedication was marked toward the end by how long it took him to fully retire. I wish his family all the best.” – Paul Brandon

“When you think about the impact Frank Pottenger has had on science education nationally and internationally in elementary through high school, think FAST, DASH, Marine Science, Physical Science. And then there are all of us who were privileged to have worked with and learned from Frank as the visionary he was.” – Donald Young, Dean Emeritus


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