But above all, friends and colleagues remember Dr. Koller as a committed educator, who devoted himself to KSU throughout his 48-year association with the university.
Dr. Koller, an emeritus professor of sociology at KSU, died Saturday at University Hospital in Cleveland after a sudden illness. He was 78.
"He was a marvelous man," said Dr. Jerry M. Lewis, an emeritus professor of sociology and colleague of Dr. Koller. "I consider him my mentor. When I came here in 1966, he was very supportive."
Dr. Koller's involvement at KSU ran long and deep. A professor at the university for 48 years, he graduated from KSU 1940 with a B.S. in education and social sciences. After spending five years in the armed forces during World War II, he enrolled in Ohio State University where he earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D in sociology. He returned to KSU as an instructor in 1949 and stayed until he retired in 1989. He continued to teach on a part-time basis until 1994.
"He was the kind of person every university needs," Lewis said. "The sort of person who is committed as a teacher and as an alumnus."
Dr. Koller was an innovative teacher and speaker, who sometimes used his large collection of hats in his classes. A pioneer in the study of the sociology of humor, he taught a course in the subject as well as the large introductory sociology classes of as many as 600 students. The Kent State Alumni Association honored him with a Distinguished Teaching Award in 1986.
Bebe Lavin, a former chair of KSU's sociology department, who started at KSU as an assistant to Dr. Koller, said Dr. Koller's students remembered him long after they graduated.
"People always ask about Marvin Koller," she said. "Besides his teaching, he really cared about students. He learned everybody's names, even in those huge classes."
He also had a strong interest in gerontology. Dr. Koller founded the Senior Guest Student Program at KSU in 1974 and served as its director until 1980. The program _ now state mandated _ allows senior citizens to take university classes on a space-available basis for free. About 200 people take part in the program each year.
Dr. Koller was also an artist whose hand-tooled leather creations are on display in the Manchester Room of the KSU library. A docudrama he wrote about the May 4 shootings, "5,4,3,2,1," premiered at Ripon College in 1981.
Survivors include his wife, Pauline of Munroe Falls, to whom he was married for 53 years; son and daughter-in-law, Robert Lee and Laura Ann Koller, and granddaughter, Julie Suzanne, all of Arlington, Va.
At his request, no memorial services were held and his body was donated to the Cleveland Clinic for medical research.