Leo Takahashi works with three students

Leo Takahashi: It's all physics

After nearly 50 years of teaching physics to Penn State Beaver students, Leo Takahashi is still challenging students to succeed in his classes.

Penn State Beaver just wouldn’t be Penn State Beaver without Leo Takahashi’s physics class.

“My biggest accomplishment thus far in my life was passing Professor Takahashi’s class,” said Instructor in Engineering Jim Hendrickson, a fellow faculty member and campus alumnus.

When Leo Takahashi, assistant professor of physics, came to Penn State Beaver in 1967 just two years after the campus opened, there was only one building for both classes and administration.

“We’ve certainly gotten much bigger since I started. We offer more for students,” Takahashi said.

Over the years, Takahashi has taught classes in math and science technology in addition to physics, although that’s what he is most well known for on campus.

He’s also taught multiple generations of the same family. Parents get excited when they learn that their children can take the same physics professor they had.

He made the decision to teach while he was in college. “I never had a good physics professor, so I figured there was a need,” he said.

“He will be the first to say he is still learning to be a teacher after nearly 50 years, and that’s a nice thing to hear,” said Dr. Donna Kuga, former interim chancellor and former director of academic affairs, who was one of Takahashi's students.

Takahashi’s commitment to students and their success has been so great that a group of alumni got together to endow the Leo Takahashi Honorary Scholarship.

After all these years, Takahashi said he still loves his job.

“When you have a career you love and it’s fun, then why retire?” he said. “I see them carrying me out of here in a box.”

“The job is never the same two semesters in a row because the students are never the same,” he said. “The students always keep changing, so as a teacher you have to adapt along with them and try to find the common ground that some like. The challenge is one of the reasons I keep coming back. I love what I’m doing.”


Graduate Studies in Physics, Texas A&M University

Graduate Studies in Physics, University of Missouri-Rolla

Master of Arts in Physics, Southern Illinois University

Bachelor of Arts in Physics, William Jewell College