When his 8-year-old grandson wanted a toy, Daniel L. Schodek did not head to a store. Instead, he showed the boy how to make a boat, a sword, or whatever the child imagined.
Dr. Schodek employed a version of the same Socratic method for more than 35 years teaching in the architecture department at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
“As a teacher, he marinated rather than microwaved, which takes a lot more time, but what a difference it made for anyone — colleague, student, friend — lucky enough to work with him,” said Jock Herron, who was one of Dr. Schodek’s last doctoral students.
A professor emeritus at Harvard, Dr. Schodek died of acute myelogenous leukemia Aug. 27 in Brigham and Women’s Hospital, after being diagnosed in November. He was 72 and a longtime Winchester resident.
Architecture students around the world knew Dr. Schodek as coauthor of a widely used textbook “Structures,” now in its seventh edition, along with several influential books in his field.
“He was an out-of-the-box thinker. He was always good for a completely unexpected turn,” said Martin Bechthold a Harvard professor who cowrote “Structures.” “He was really a scholar who had an incredible wealth of knowledge.”
Dr. Schodek was remembered for his ability to spot the next frontier. In his classroom, he discussed using software to create materials through machines, sometimes called 3-D printing, long before the technology hit the mainstream, Bechthold said.
In 2009, Dr. Schodek coauthored an introductory book on nanomaterials and nanotechnologies for architects and engineers.
“He was infinitely curious about all sorts of things,” Bechthold said. “He was always looking ahead while keeping perspective.”
Born and raised in Rosenberg, Texas, in a community of residents of Czechoslovakian descent, Dr. Schodek was the second son of Frank Schodek and the former Hermina Sabrsula. His father was a plumber. His grandfather was a tinsmith.
“From an early age, he knew he wanted to be involved in building things,” said his wife, Kay.
In the 1960s, Dr. Schodek graduated from the University of Texas Austin with undergraduate and graduate degrees in architectural engineering. He began teaching at Harvard in 1969 and received a doctorate in civil engineering in 1971 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In Austin, he met Kay Strieber during a Thanksgiving break car pool from campus. For several years, their relationship grew mostly through letters, after she went to study in Germany and Dr. Schodek headed to MIT. They were married 43 years.
In addition to his wife, he leaves two sons, Ned of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ben of Winchester; a brother, Franklin of Richmond, Texas; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday in the Swedenborg Chapel in Cambridge. Burial will be private.
Traveling with Dr. Schodek “was always a time-space adventure,” his family said. He was an avid reader who retained facts about history like the proverbial sponge, his wife recalled.
Around Dordogne in France, he regaled fellow travelers with tales of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France that began in the 14th century.
“Dan retained nothing of what he read in fiction, however,” his wife added, “and was always surprised by the endings of the mysteries he happily read many times over.”
In the late 1980s, Dr. Schodek taught in the Netherlands as a visiting scholar in civil engineering at what is now the Delft University of Technology. He took his family with him and enjoyed introducing his sons to international travel.
“My father took great pains to impart, to my brother and I, a love and curiosity of the world around us. He would go out of his way to take us to exotic historical places, castles, and museums on our travels to expose us to broader culture,” his son Ben said in an e-mail.
“He truly had a love for the world, which I am happy he was able to share and impart to us,” Ben added. “He always took great interest in whatever my brother and I were doing in our lives, and went to great pains to help us achieve our goals. I couldn’t have asked for a better father.”
At Harvard, from 1981 to 1991, Dr. Schodek was director of the laboratory for computer graphics and spatial analysis, where he worked on research projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Schodek teamed with architect Paul Stevenson Oles and designed a bridge for West Dover, Vt., winning a 1989 state competition and an American Institute of Architects New England award in 1996.
He used digital media in 2001 to explore possible construction techniques used during the Renaissance for architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s iconic cupola atop the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.
Former students say Dr. Schodek, who retired from teaching in 2008 and became the Kumagai research professor of architectural technology, wore his brilliance lightly.
“His technical knowledge and willingness to share what he knew freely and without limitation were two of the many qualities that impressed me,” said Luciana Burdi, who received a doctorate from Harvard with Dr. Schodek as her adviser.
In discussions with his students, Dr. Schodek “often responded with a gently posed question, a slight tug at a barely visible, but untethered thread that more often than not unraveled what had seemed to be the sure logic of what turned out to be a tempting, but specious argument,” Herron said. “But Dan, being Dan, there was no academic triumphalism.”
“I think what mattered to him were human values: friendship, loyalty, trust, humor, fairness and, surely, love,” Herron said. “As technically gifted as he was, I never saw that get in the way of his seeing and caring more about the fuller context of a design solution.”