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OXFORD — Christopher Pottle, teacher and Christian peace activist, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, at his home in Oxford. He was 79.
Born in New Haven, CT on February 14, 1932, he was one of two sons and a daughter of Frederick Albert and Marion Isabel (Starbird) Pottle. His father and mother were editor and cataloguer, respectively, of the papers of James Boswell at Yale University, where his father was also a professor of English literature.
He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1949 and earned a Bachelor's Degree in English at Yale in 1953. After a year at the Sperry Gyroscope Company on Long Island, NY, he served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956 as a engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1962 and was a Fulbright scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, Germany, 1958-59. While in Germany, he met Marcia Suthon, a fellow Fulbright Scholar from New Orleans, LA. They married in 1961.
After receiving his doctoral degree, he joined the faculty at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where he taught electrical engineering until he retired in 1998. He was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, in 1966-67, and spent sabbatical leaves at the IBM Watson Research Laboratories, at the General Electric Company’s Electric Utility Systems Engineering Department, and at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Mr. Pottle was one of the founders of the Computer Science Department at Cornell and was known for his forward-thinking approach, constantly incorporating new technologies in a field that changed rapidly during his 36 years of teaching. He was also known for his dedication to creating a positive educational experience for his students and could often be found with them, sleeves rolled up, hard at work in the labs that were a central part of the electrical engineering curriculum. The wisdom, discipline and humor he brought to his work impacted over 4,000 graduates of the school during his years of teaching.
Upon retirement, he and his wife moved to Oxford, his mother’s family home for several generations, where he had spent summers in childhood and throughout his life. He expressed his love of the outdoors through camping, hiking, sailing, and boating, particularly at the family camp in nearby Otisfield Cove, and worked hard to protect the camp for future generations of his extended family.
He began a lifetime of dedicated service in the Episcopal Church as a young child, singing in the boys’ choir at Christ Episcopal Church, New Haven. He served as acolyte, on vestries, as treasurer and in countless other ways at churches in New Haven, Ithaca, and most recently in Norway.
As a Christian peace activist, his passion for social and environmental justice brought him to leadership roles in many organizations, including the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Maine Council of Churches, Maine Interfaith Power and Light, and the Thompson Lake Environmental Association (TLEA). He often brought his analytical and computing skills to bear in such volunteer work, serving as treasurer of a number of organizations in which he also helped to integrate current technology. He spent many hours with the TLEA in recent years inspecting boats and working to keep his beloved lake clear of invasive plants.
Besides his wife, Mr. Pottle is survived by a son, Samuel W. Pottle of Madison, WI and Tokyo, Japan; a daughter, Manette B. Pottle of Camden; a son, John F. Pottle of Williamsburg, VA and as many nieces, nephew, cousins and friends as there are stars in the sky.
Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, March 2 at 2 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church in Norway with the Reverand Anne Stanley officiating. Spring interment will be at Elmwood Cemetery in Otisfield. Donations, in lieu of flowers, may be sent to Christ Episcopal Church, 35 Paris Street, Norway, ME 04268; Thompson Lake Environmental Association, P.O. Box 25, Oxford, ME, 04270 or Episcopal Peace Fellowship, 637 South Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60605-1839. Arrangements under the care of Oxford Hills and Weston Funeral Services, 1037 Main St., Oxford. On-line condolences may be expressed to the family at www.oxfordhillsfuneralservices.com.