Merv Tuckman, 87

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Right until the end, Merv Tuckman continued doing what he loved most: teaching.

Right until the end, Merv Tuckman continued doing what he loved most: teaching.
Every week for the past eight years, this former educator/administrator/mentor would lead a spirited discussion on sports at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life in North Wales. Not only would he run the group, but he often brought books, newspaper clips and other material to enhance the topic of the day.
In fact, that’s where he was the day he developed the blood disorder that ultimately took his life Feb. 9. “In some ways, he’d rather be known as a good teacher than anything else,” said his son, Dr. Glenn Tuckman, who, in recent years, accompanied his father and his own son on long hikes through Utah’s Zion National Park and other natural wonders. “That was the thing that lit his fire. His real passions were teaching and sports, but he loved volunteering at Abramson.”
Long before he began passing his knowledge on to the residents at Abramson, Mervyn B. Tuckman taught at Franklin S. Edmonds School in West Oak Lane. At his Feb. 12 funeral, one of his students, Barry Mann, spoke about the impact he had on his life.
“Merv Tuckman was the quintessential educator,” he told mourners at Goldstein’s in Southampton. “He could be intimidating, but he was always inspiring. Merv taught us to honor tradition, but to never be afraid to question it. Merv provided students the opportunity to accelerate their maturity by enabling them to become young experts themselves. Merv was always a mentor — and a connector.”
A graduate of Central High and Temple University, Tuckman left his teaching position at Edmonds to become executive director of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park in the early 1960s. It was shortly around that time he became part of the search committee to select a new rabbi to replace the retiring Mortimer Cohen.
Eventually, they chose Rabbi Aaron Landes, who became a fixture in the community over the next 50 years. “Merv was the executive director and was very passionate about the synagogue and its history,” recalled the late rabbi’s wife, Sora Landes. “I had a lot of respect for him.
“He was crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside,” she continued. “He could size up situations and tell you what needed to be done. He knew his stuff.”
As part of his duties at Beth Sholom, Tuckman also ran the Thursday night men’s basketball program. These were informal, but highly competitive games where he himself competed, as did his son. “I was a little kid, but Thursday night was sacrosanct,” said Glenn , now an Indianapolis doctor.
“He had dinner and then he was out to play ball. And he kept playing until late in his 60s, even though he had these knees that were killing him.”
After his years at Beth Sholom, Tuckman became vice president of Spring Garden College in Chestnut Hill, where he oversaw the development of a new campus for the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. From there, it was on to Gratz College, where he served as vice president of administration, overseeing Gratz’s move from Broad Street to its current Melrose Park location.
In addition, he supervised construction of the Newman Building, Tuttleman Library and Gratz’s new offices on the Mandell Education Campus.
Tuckman retired from Gratz in 2000, giving him more time to devote to his family, in addition to exploring such pursuits as floral design, gourmet dining and art history. He also began to travel extensively, taking each of his five grandchildren to Europe in celebration of their B’nai Mitzvot.
But invariably, once he returned home, it was time to prepare for his visits to Abramson to lead the sports forum. “He’d prepare all week for it,” said Glenn. “Then he’d bring articles about former Philadelphia athletes and would spend a lot of time talking about Philadelphia teams. I know he talked about them all going to a Phillies game, but I don’t think they ever got there.”
Merv Tuckman is survived by his wife, Lyn, of 30 years, his son Glenn, daughter Terri Tuckman Soulen, stepchildren Jennifer and Kenneth Rackow, and five grandchildren. Contributions in his name may be made to the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, 142 Horsham Rd., North Wales, Pa. 19454, or a charity of the donor’s choice.
Contact: jmarks@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0729

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