More than 100 friends, colleagues and former students of Arthur L. Loeb filled University Lutheran Church Saturday afternoon to remember the Harvard faculty member and renowned design pioneer.
Loeb, who died July 14 at the age of 79, started his career as a chemical physicist before he began his innovative research in geometric forms and spatial patterns.
His work led him to collaborations with Buckminster Fuller ’19 and M.C. Escher, and for over 30 years he taught in Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies (VES).
His independent success as an artist and his commitment to the local music community brought him renown outside the University as well.
The nine friends and colleagues of Loeb who spoke at the Saturday memorial described him as a renaissance man with eclectic interests and a generous spirit.
“I remember a soul civilized, generous and grateful for life’s very gift,” said the Reverend Carl R. Scovel, a minister at King’s Chapel, Boston, which Loeb attended. “Did any of us ever converse with Arthur without learning something?”
Loeb, who served as a lecturer and honorary associate in the VES department and a faculty member at the Graduate School of Education, was an active member in the Harvard community and in greater Boston.
He founded and directed the local Collegium Iosquinum ensemble and choreographed for the Harvard Scottish Country Dancers. For six years, he served as master of Dudley House.
Writer, dancer and former student Esmeralda Santiago ’76 said Loeb’s acceptance of her seemingly incongruous interests had helped her to establish her life’s path.
Working with a teacher who was not afraid to dress as a minstrel and to play Medieval music for the “jeans-and-sneakers generation” inspired her.
“Here was a man like no other who exemplified what we wished we could become,” she said.
Loeb fled from his home in the Netherlands to England in a fishing boat when the Nazi occupation began in 1940. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania and then came to Harvard to earn his doctorate.
The threat of Nazi oppression haunted him throughout his life. Loeb’s discomfort with his Jewish background remained hidden as he explored new faiths as an adult, his friend the Rev. Thomas B. Chittick said at the memorial.
During his last convalescence, Loeb asked Chittick whether the pastor thought that people disdained him because of his Jewish background.
Loeb became interested in geometric patterns and “Visual Mathematics”—which he later titled one of his Harvard courses—while researching on a MIT team assembled to work on the groundbreaking Whirlwind computer.