Andrea Robbins, one of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s longest-serving faculty members, is retiring this week after more than 40 years of service to the university teaching chemistry and algebra.
She had not planned a career in academics when she came to Pitt-Bradford in 1982 as a lab instructor – a job she intended to have for a couple of years before pursuing a career in industry. But she fell in love with another lab instructor, Don Robbins, who introduced her to the woods of his native McKean County, where she still prefers to be found today and plans to spend time in retirement.
The Robbinses were married for 31 years before Don’s death in 2015.
Andrea Robbins grew up in Leetsdale, Pa., loving science at a time when that was uncommon for a girl. After getting a hand-me-down chemistry set from an uncle, she asked for and received one for Christmas, sparking her passion for chemistry. Her 10th grade chemistry class set in motion her desire to be a chemist.
Robbins attended Villa Maria College, in Erie, Pa., and took chemistry classes at Gannon University, where she was often the only woman in upper-level courses.
Robbins’ gained a reputation at Pitt-Bradford as an instructor who excelled at breaking down tough topics into digestible bits.
“I try to remember my best what it was like to be on the other side of the desk,” she says of teaching and meeting with students. She also believes that it takes a lot of work to understand tough topics.
“I’m very old-school in my methods,” she said. “You get out of learning what you put into it. You only learn by pushing a pencil.”
In 2008, she received the Chairs’ Faculty Teaching Award.
A devoted outdoorswoman, she plans to spend more time fishing for trout and hunting for deer (archery) small game and spring gobbler. She is also planning trips to visit her children and grandchildren in New Hampshire and many nieces and nephews around the country. Alaska and Hawaii are also on her list.