Richard G. Stebbins wasn’t easy to pigeonhole, a scientist who loved the outdoors and was as interested in people and ideas as much as formulas and the elements.

Mr. Stebbins, 68, died last Sunday at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough.

He was born in Providence, R.I., grew up in Rhode Island and began his career at Bethany College in West Virginia, concluding it at the University of Southern Maine, where he taught chemistry, chaired the Chemistry Department and was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for five years, retiring as a professor in 2007. In between West Virginia and Maine there were forays to Montana, Botswana and South America, said his daughter Kelly Hood of Fairfax, Va.

“He was a good man who cared a lot about people in the world,” she said, noting that he kept in contact with and followed the progress of the children he taught in Botswana who came to the United States for college.

The outdoors was always a draw for Mr. Stebbins, Hood said, noting that one summer, she and her sister Kim – about 6 and 4 years old, respectively – traveled with their father to Alaska, camping, fishing and hiking along the way. Later, when he was in Montana, “he would drag us up these mountains,” she said, “and I was always the last in the line.”

Part of the allure of camping was because it was cheaper than more traditional vacations staying in hotels, Hood said. Mr. Stebbins showed his gift for economics when he offered his youngest daughter, Hilary, a car, if she went to the cheaper of two colleges she was considering.

“So my sister got a Ford Escort,” Hood said, and the savings more than covered the cost of the car.

Hood said her father loved learning. She noted that at one point, the house he was living in had a piano. Mr. Stebbins loved Pachelbel’s Canon, so he took piano lessons to learn to play that song. Once he mastered it, the lessons ended, she said.

When Mr. Stebbins was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, one of the hardest times came when he could no longer read, because he would often discuss books with his family and loved doing crossword puzzles.

“He loved learning and knowing things and finding out about things,” she said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]