Outside the Classroom: Dr. Robert Laux

By: Katie Auwaerter | Features Editor

(Courtesy of Robert Laux) -Dr. Robert Laux as a civil war reenactor at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
(Courtesy of Robert Laux) -Dr. Robert Laux as a civil war reenactor at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

They drone on as we count down the seconds until class is complete. They hold our futures in their hands. They are the Duquesne University professors. With our amount of classwork, you would think that teaching consumes their free time. But outside the classroom, some professors lead unexpected and interesting lives.

Dr. Robert Laux has been a professor in the Mylan School of Pharmacy for almost 20 years. He teaches Physical Assessments and Immunization Practices, as well as the practical labs for the pharmacy students. Laux also practices at the Center for Pharmacy Care, located in the Muldoon building on Fifth Avenue, where last year they gave out over 700 flu shots.

When he’s not helping patients as a pharmacist, Laux leads an exciting life off of Duquesne’s campus. Students have described him as ‘the most interesting man in the world.’ Why, you ask? While he is a pharmacist, he is also a licensed pilot, hot air balloon crewmember, civil war reenactor, licensed mechanic, home renovator, and father of four daughters.

Laux tells us more about his adventures both on and off campus, and how the two relate.

KA: So you’re a pilot?
BL: My dad was a pilot during World War II, he was a B-17 bomber pilot, so I think I have it in my blood. He has many wonderful experiences during the war flying, and I decided that this is for me…so I went out and got my pilot’s license. Sadly, my dad was going to be my first passenger, he didn’t make it.

KA: How long have you been flying?
BL: Since 1989…over 25 years. Don’t own my own airplane, but I do rent, and just love it…airplanes tend to be very expensive, but the time may come.
KA: You’re also a civil war reenactor?
BL: Yep, for 37 years…I love history- particularly military history. I can’t tell you who the third king of England was- Henry something- but I’ve always been interested in battles and strategies and weapons, etc. And the Civil War- long time interest, long time. It was back in ’77 that a friend of mine attended one of these and back then, the hobby was in its infancy. He came back and said, “you know, this is something we ought to look at,’ and I said ‘what, guys running around the woods playing war?’ he said “No there’s a little more to it.” So I attended one, and the rest as they say is history. In order to get on the battlefield nowadays, you have to be 100 percent correct. Military uniform has to be of the same material and construction as they had back in the 1860s, the same weaponry. And we practice the tactics. So basically when we’re out there for a weekend or however long, I’m no longer a university professor. I’m a guy portraying a Civil War soldier.

KA: Your interests are pretty broad. Have you always been one to diversify your hobbies or do you see a common theme between all of them?
BL: I don’t know if there’s any common theme. I do home renovations also, again back to my dad. My dad, if something broke in the house, he would be the first- he may not be able to fix it, but he’d at least take a shot at it. And I feel the same way. So I put a whole kitchen in my house, I do work on cars- I have an inspection mechanics license…but the thing is I like to stay active. I do like the cognitive stuff- I teach, I study. But I also like to get out there and work with my hands and get dirty. You might want to mention I’ve also done some hot air ballooning. Not as a pilot, but as a crewmember. A friend of mine owns a balloon and he flies commercially, so I’ve flown with him and also crewed with him.

KA: Let me make sure I have everything. Pharmacist, professor, pilot, mechanic, civil war reenactor, hot air balloon crewman.
BL: And father of four daughters. I would not change that for anything. Would not change it for anything.

KA: So with all of the outside activities you have, do you see any of the lessons applying to teaching?
BL: Well, reenacting you have to have a sense of history and enjoying the outdoors, and that’s more of a release than anything. It’s a passion for all of us. Flying requires a lot of discipline, as does studying for anything as complex as pharmacy, so you gotta be focused, disciplined. One mistake and a.) you’re a flaming wreckage or you’ve injured a patient. So there’s really no tolerance for errors in a lot of these. Like fixing a car, gotta get that right too…oh, I have this part left over, I wonder where it goes. No, that’s not a good thing.

KA: Do you think any lessons from teaching creep into your outside activities?
BL: Do your research first. In order to be a good teacher, you have to know the subject better than anybody else in the room. If you’re going to go and put a water heater in, do your research. It could be messy otherwise. So stay focused, do your research, get serious about it, that’s about it.

KA: With many of the students hoping to reach your level, whether that be a professor or a pharmacist, would you recommend being as diverse as yourself?
BL: Follow your interests. Allow time for these passions outside of studying. Study hard, stay focused, seriously. Number one, you don’t want to do anyone any harm. That’s number one first and foremost. So stay focused, stay passionate about it, but yet have fun. Get out there. If you like golfing, golf. I do now and then also. You’ve gotta have your down time as well, so  it’s a balance. I absolutely love the work I’m doing at the center. I do not drag myself out of bed and into work, no, I love what I’m doing. So all I can say is live it, learn it, love it…love what you do, and you never work a day in your life.