Ertel excelled at bionucleonics at School of Pharmacy

Robert J. Ertel, who had a long career as a professor of pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy, died Dec. 10, 2019 at 87.

Ertel was already a Pitt faculty member when Rege Vollmer became his student in 1972; they became faculty colleagues in 1977. Ertel taught some of the school’s core courses in pharmacology and physiology, as well as a very popular course in bionucleonics — the use of radioactive materials in research — as Vollmer recalls. The latter course was one “that everyone loved to take. He was the only one who had the expertise. It was very important.” The course was highly valued for its real-world, practical lessons even by those from other schools, such as students from the School of Medicine and from the biology department in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, Vollmer says.

Ertel collaborated with Vollmer on several cardiovascular research projects, and with many other faculty members conducting studies that dovetailed with his expertise. Even after Ertel retired, he continued to work with student members of the professional pharmacy fraternity, Kappa Psi, since he was their long-time faculty director, Vollmer says. “They really enjoyed him being their faculty guy,” he adds.

Ertel was also active in the University Senate, serving several terms as vice president in the late 1980s.

Vollmer remembers him as “a person that you could really get close to. He’s one of those people who had no airs about him — he was very approachable.” Ertel was also an avid hunter and very active in Saint Winifred Church in Mt. Lebanon.

— Marty Levine