Robert Pollack, Navy veteran, Temple professor, and celebrated scientist, dies at 94
By GARY MILES | The Philadelphia Inquirer | Published: January 2, 2021
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(Tribune News Service) — Dr. Robert L. Pollack, 94, of Philadelphia, a scientist, author, Navy veteran, and the former chair of the Department of Biochemistry at Temple University's School of Dentistry, died Tuesday, Dec. 1, of COVID-19 at Cathedral Village.
A Navy medic during World War II, a published expert on biochemistry and nutrition, a popular professor and scientific researcher at Temple, and a world traveler, Dr. Pollack never forgot his early days as an ambitious boy on Pentridge Street in West Philadelphia.
First in South Philadelphia and then on Pentridge Street, his father, from Russia, and mother, from Lithuania, worked hard to keep Dr. Pollack and his sister safe and healthy. They spoke Yiddish at home, so he learned English in kindergarten.
He told tales of his mother going without food at the dinner table so that he and his sister did not, and they sometimes had to borrow money for groceries.
"I consider myself VERY LUCKY," Dr. Pollack wrote in 2018, "an example of the American Dream, in a way, and for that I am truly grateful."
His struggles as a boy in the 1930s and '40s framed Dr. Pollack's caring attitude toward others later in life, said his daughters, Janine and Linda. He was delighted when former students recognized him on the street and proud of how he had helped them. "He was always giving back," Janine said.
Dr. Pollack was born in April 1926 and graduated early from West Philadelphia High School. He was drafted into the Navy Hospital Corps during World War II and served stateside caring for wounded and sick soldiers.
After the war, he went to Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Sciences, earning three degrees in chemistry and bacteriology. It was then that he first saw Lydia Aureli, at a New Year's Eve party at the old International House, as she descended a staircase. They married in 1952.
A teaching fellowship at the University of Tennessee followed his college graduation, and he added a Ph.D. in biochemistry and nutrition from there. The couple returned to Philadelphia and lived together in Andorra with their daughters from the mid-1950s until Mrs. Pollack died in 1997.
Dr. Pollack first worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But he found real satisfaction and achievement at Temple's dental school, now Kornberg School of Dentistry. "I loved every day of it," he wrote in 2018.
For a quarter century, Dr. Pollack thrived as a teacher and researcher at Temple. He won grants for amino acids research, wrote numerous scientific papers and articles, authored books on nutrition, and appeared across the country as an expert speaker.
In 1975, he got a scientific research job in Genoa, Italy, and spent eight months there with his wife and daughters, touring Europe on weekends. That led to follow-up lectures in Italy throughout the 1970s and 80s. He retired as professor emeritus from Temple in 1988.
After Temple, Dr. Pollack worked with companies to develop lozenges for colds and tryptophan supplements for a variety of uses. He played the flute, and enjoyed camping, sailing, and opera. He found fellowship at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration, and he moved to Cathedral Village in 2014.
Annual camping trips along the East Coast were a family highlight. The girls would bundle up in blankets and pillows in the back seat for long car rides to and from. Even in the darkness, by the turns and the timing, Linda could tell when they were close to arriving.
She would pretend to be asleep, and her father always carried her into the house.
"That way," she said, "I could get one more hug from him."
In addition to his daughters, Dr. Pollard is survived by four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and other relatives. A service is to be held later.
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