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The Call to Teach: Richard Hart '71

Q&A with Amy Reynolds, Communications Specialist
This article appeared as part of a series in the Spring 2018 issue of the Tower Hill Bulletin

Tower Hill’s alumni database turned up nearly 200 alumni who entered the field of education, and the more we researched, the more we found. They are early childhood, elementary, middle and high school teachers, college professors, psychologists, coaches, admission counselors, non-profit administrators… The list goes on and on, remarkable in its variety and breadth. Here we highlight just a few across the decades, representative of the many alumni who chose to make teaching their life’s work, and in turn, make a meaningful impact on the lives of young people.

Richard Hart ‘71 is the Biomedical Engineering Department Chair at Ohio State University. A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Case Western Reserve University, Hart served as department chair in Tulane University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering from 1997-2006. His research interests are in finite element analysis of biological tissues and structures, with a focus on the response of bone tissue to mechanical stimuli. In addition, he has collaborated on research projects in brain physics, spine mechanics and ophthalmology.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of the job is all the different things I get to do and all the bright people I get to interact with. Particularly as the department chair, I have a fair amount of administrative responsibility, and I get to try to lead the faculty and staff in a cohesive direction. I get to teach. I generally teach sophomores or graduate students. Currently I’m teaching grad students, and each is interesting and invigorating. I do research as well. My lab is winding down now, but I’ve had a number of doctoral, master’s and undergraduate students in the lab. Watching them develop and seeing that they become experts in their field, particularly at the doctoral level, is exciting. 
What would you say is your proudest accomplishment from working in education?
I think the impact I have had on the next generation—educating students, making sure the curriculum is well-conceived. In my role as department chair, it’s curricular. In my role as instructor, it’s more teaching. And in my role as a doctoral advisor, it’s the research and interactions with the students.
What aspects of education are timeless?
Learning how to think. To glean information to actually generate knowledge. In engineering in particular, sometimes you can run through a calculation or a simulation and have it be absolutely meaningless in that the assumptions or the inputs, when you finally get to the output, don’t make any sense. Students often will blindly provide that as an answer without going back and asking themselves, “Does this make any sense?” So that’s a process where they learn how to think, how to estimate, how to be realistic—and that is a process. It’s not something that people generally take to immediately. And that’s of course a very engineering-oriented answer, but opening the mind to new possibilities and examining your own biases and assumptions, all of that is part of learning how to think.