Tag Archives: memoriam

In Memoriam: Robert Mount

Robert Mount
Robert Mount

Professor Emeritus Robert H. “Bob” Mount, a longtime member of the physics faculty, passed away July 2 at his home in Hancock. He was 86 years old.

Mount came to Michigan Tech in 1954 from Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co., where he was employed as the chief geologist. He retired from the University in 2000. For much of his career, he taught introductory physics courses. “His 46 years of service is the second-longest in department history—the longest being James Fisher,” said physics professor Bryan Suits.

His colleagues remember Mount as health conscious. “His extensive early-morning exercise routine was very important to him,” Suits said. “He would retire early so he could get up at 3 or 4 a.m. to do his workout. Hence, he often passed when it came to attending the department’s evening events—they were past his bedtime.”

Professor Don Beck also remembered his physical fitness—and his motorcycle, which he rode to campus whenever weather permitted. “He was an amiable colleague,” said Beck, “and he had an extensive collection of college-level books that he managed to fit into one of our smallest offices.”

Mount donated most of that collection to the Society of Physics students upon his retirement. “Fourteen years later, those books are still in the undergrad physics room and are consulted and used on a regular basis, sometimes even by grad students and professors,” said Professor Raymond Shaw.

Professor Robert Nemiroff remembers Mount as a cheerful sort, before and after his retirement. “He always seemed in good spirits and had kind words or a humorous story for me, and I would expect for his students as well,” he said.

Mount was also an animal lover with a big heart, said Professor Jacek Borysow. “Bob took all the ugliest dogs from the animal shelter and took care of them,” he said. “I think there were times when he had something like six dogs, and they all had missing legs, ears or tails, and they were very old.”

Mount served in the army at the end of World War II and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and an MS in Geophysics from Michigan Tech.

Bob is survived by his children, Becky, Nancy, Rob and Jeff (Elyssa), and his grandchildren, Rachel and Gabe. He is also survived by his pets, Peppy, Kitsalee, Linky and Mama, his devoted and adoring lap cat.

Mount’s body will be cremated, and no public visitation or service will be held. O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

From Tech Today.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Bob Mount.


In Memoriam: Keith Baldwin

Keith Baldwin
Keith Baldwin

Keith M. Baldwin, 85, passed away on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at Marquette General Hospital.

He was born May 25, 1928, in Buffalo, N.Y. Moving to Michigan in 1937, he graduated from Eastern High School, Lansing, Mich., in 1946. During his high school years, he honed his skills in radio repair and early electronics which created a lasting interest in electronics that he fostered his entire life. Keith graduated from Michigan State University in 1950 with both a degree in physics as well as a state high school teaching certificate for physics and math.

In order to spend more time with his family Keith left industry in 1963 to pursue a career in teaching and joined the Michigan College of Mining and Technology as an Associate Professor of Physics. He taught many physics classes/senior lab and served as a faculty advisor for graduate students. In the early 70’s, Keith also became involved with the Keweenaw Research Center (KRC). He worked on vehicle research projects and helped to secure contracts for vehicle testing. After early retirement from MTU in 1984 at the age of 55, MTU partnered with Keith and formed KMB/Tech. He developed laboratory physics equipment marketed to physics teachers.

Read the entire story at the Mining Gazette.

Professor Emeritus Don Daavittila (Physics) knew him well. “He was very interested in his subject and a very good teacher,” he said. “I enjoyed knowing him very much. He was also a Tech hockey fan, he was even at some games this year. Keith was a good guy.”

Professor Don Beck (Physics) also remembers his teaching ability. “I remember him saying that he liked teaching C and D students especially because he was able to see how much they learned as they progressed through his courses.”

Associate Professor Will Cantrell (Physics) and the Baldwins were members of the same congregation. “I remember Keith’s kindness and generosity,” he said. “He and his wife provided the piano we use for music, which has made quite a difference to our church.”

Read more reflections at Tech Today.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Keith Baldwin.


In Memoriam: Paul R. Hinzmann

Paul Hinzmann
Paul Hinzmann

Paul Revere Hinzmann, professor emeritus of physics, died on Nov. 30, at the Clark Retirement Home in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was 99 years old.

He was born in Tipton, Mich., and lived in Ohio before attending the Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve). He attended his 70th reunion there in 2005.

Hinzmann received a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan before beginning his teaching career at Michigan Tech in 1946. He taught until 1977 and was also the University photographer during his tenure at Tech. He was recalled as a patient, caring teacher who loved the enthusiasm of students. After retirement, he was active in the local Boy Scouts chapter, Isle Royale Natural History Association, and Golden Kiwanis.

Paul was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Alvin and Wade. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Elsie (Feigley) Hinzmann and his children, Georgia (Hugh) Makens of Grand Rapids, Mich. and Vincent (Nancy) Hinzmann of Milford, Mich. grandchildren and other family members.

Paul wished his body to be donated to science with the MSU Medical School being the recipient.

Posted December 5, 2012, in Tech Today.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Paul Hinzmann.


In Memoriam: Vasant Potnis

Vasant Potnis
Vasant Potnis

Physics professor emeritus Vasant Potnis, who retired from Michigan Tech in 1996, passed away Sept. 15 in Gwalior, India.

Potnis was born in 1928 in India and earned Bsc, MSc and PhD degrees from Agra University before traveling by boat to the US in 1954.

He came to the University in 1968 from Kansas State University, one of a nuclear physics research group that included Gary Agin. Potnis’s research focused on low-energy nuclear physics, beta and gamma ray spectroscopy, and time variations of cosmic radiation, and he published numerous papers.

“Vasant was easy going and very agreeable,” remembers Agin, professor emeritus of physics, who retired from the University in 2008.

Physics professor Don Beck agreed. “Vasant’s pleasant personality contributed significantly to the department while providing a much-needed external visibility as a fellow of the American Physical Society,” he said.

David Lucas earned an MS in Physics from Michigan Tech in 1977 under Potnis’s direction and later received Tech’s first PhD in Physics in 1986. Now chair of the physics department at Northern Michigan University, Lucas called Potnis “one of the nicest people.”

“He was always encouraging and helpful. I never had to worry about asking him anything,” Lucas said.

Mechanical engineering professor emeritus Sudhakar Pandit was both a colleague and a friend. “He was an avid lover of bridge, and after retirement, we used to play quite regularly,” he says. “Vasant was a very rational individual and took great pride in physics, in thinking scientifically.”

He also loved art, said Pandit’s wife, Maneesha. “He took art classes and enjoyed doing sketches and paintings, from life and photographs,” she said. “He had a good collection of his own work, and he appreciated art in general.”

“He also exhibited in the spring art show on campus,” Agin said.

The Potnises split their time between Houghton and Gwalior, where Vasant owned a casting business. After retiring, he continued to teach classes within the physics department. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi and Sigma Pi Sigma.

Potnis is survived by his wife, Kusum.

Posted September 26, 2012, in Tech Today.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Vasant Potnis.


In Memoriam: Donald Yerg

Don Yerg
Don Yerg

Donald G. Yerg, 86, died July 23 in Minneapolis. He was born in Lewistown, Pa., and received a PhD in Physics/Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University. He joined the faculty of Michigan Tech in 1955, after several years of conducting research and teaching at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and in Puerto Rico.

At Michigan Tech, he taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the physics department and was the University’s first Dean of Graduate Studies (now the Graduate School), helping to build Tech’s master’s and doctoral programs.

Professor emeritus Don Daavettila recalled working with Yerg as a graduate student before they became colleagues in the physics department.

“He was very helpful to us as students, always explaining what he was doing,” Daavettila said. “I enjoyed that. He was a fine person. He loved to talk physics, and he loved to talk politics, too.”

Yerg remained active in upper atmosphere research by publishing and presenting at various national scientific and academic conferences. For several years, he hosted a program on Michigan Tech’s radio station, WGGL, where he interviewed scientists on how their research impacted everyday life.

An avid reader of political, social and foreign journals, and historical works; a student of the Spanish language, the recorder and acoustic guitar; and a writer of progressive letters to the press–he was a man of inquisitive mind and critical thinking.

He was happiest on the shores of Lake Superior or on backwoods trails of the Keweenaw, whether it was sailing, hiking, biking or skiing. His ashes will be spread over Lake Superior in a family ceremony.

He is survived by wife, Mary Jane, children George, Mark, and Suzanne Yerg, and four grandchildren.

Posted August 25, 2011, in Tech Today.

Donald G. Yerg
Read more at the Mining Gazette.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Don Yerg.


In Memoriam: Robert A. Janke

Robert A. Janke
Robert A. Janke

Robert A. Janke, who loved cross-country skiing, indulged a pronounced sweet tooth, mainly in the form of pies, and devoted himself to his work at Michigan Tech and on Isle Royale, died Wednesday, Dec. 22, at PortagePointe. He was 88.

Janke taught at Tech for more than 40 years—first physics, then biology. His specialty was plant ecology, in particular the identification of the flora of Isle Royale, where he also studied forest succession–from both natural change and from fire–as well as the effects of moose on the forests.

Colleagues recall Janke as physically fit, intellectually solid, and socially inclined. “He just liked people,” said Ken Kraft, a colleague. “He loved to lead a group on weekend cross-country skiing outings.”

Kraft, a former associate professor, first met Janke in 1961. Kraft described Janke as both a park naturalist and a scientist on Isle Royale, where he worked every summer, beginning in the 1940s. “He had an affection for Isle Royale,” Kraft recalls. “He’d still be there if he could.”

Professor Emeritus Rolf Peterson, who first met Janke in 1967, recalls him as “a very cheerful guy who was helpful and reliable.” Peterson didn’t work with Janke, but they both worked extensively on Isle Royale, so they crossed tracks often. Peterson described Janke as a man of integrity and accomplishment–“known for his work in forest ecology for many decades, and one of the first two forest ecologists at Tech.”

Janke, who retired in the early 1980s, earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Michigan, a master’s in physics from Michigan Tech, and a doctorate in biology from the University of Colorado.

Janke attended Portage Lake United Church, in Houghton, where he was active in the choir. He also enjoyed singing in the Copper Country Chorale and the Ecumenical Choir, and he enjoyed folk dancing.

In 1944, he married the former Nadine Key. The couple lived first in Houghton and then Boston Location. His wife preceded him in death in 2006.

Surviving are four children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Posted January 4, 2011, in Tech Today.

Robert A. Janke
Read more at the Mining Gazette.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Robert A. Janke.


In Memoriam: Sam Marshall

Sam Marshall
Sam Marshall
Dr. Marshall was a Professor of Physics at Michigan Tech from 1981 to 1995. He passed away in October 2008 in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Marshall had a long and distinguished career in experimental physics, resulting in a Michigan Tech Research Award and more than 60 publications. His research interests spanned many areas of solid state physics, including magnetic defects, electron spin resonance, nuclear magnetic resonance, crystal field theory, and hyperfine interaction.

Marshall came to Tech in 1981 as a full professor, after working at Argonne National Lab in suburban Chicago for about 18 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, a master’s from the University of Michigan, and a PhD from Catholic University in Washington, DC. He worked as a physicst for the National Bureau of Standards, the U. S. Naval Ordnance Lab, and the IIT Research Institute. Marshall was born in Chicago. He is listed in American Men and Women of Science and Who’s Who in Science. He retired in 1995 and was granted emeritus status in 1996.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Sam Marshall.

Memorials from our Alumni, Students & Friends


Sam served as a “seed” for the development of the Physics department’s experimental Ph.D. research program. He had a number of hurdles to overcome in getting his laboratory (the first one in the new program) up and functioning. He found ways—several of them humorous—around these hurdles. One episode involved having to tighten up the bolts on the cargo portion of the truck he had rented to transport some of his lab equipment from Chicago to MTU, during the trip. Fortunately, he was travelling with our machinist.

I remember his submitting a paper to a journal and getting it back to referee! He wrote the editor that it was an excellent paper, but that he was biased, as he was its author. Don Yerg, Jim Waber, he and I went to lunch together quite often. On occasion, a younger colleague attended—who named us the “Golden Girls”. I’m not admitting to any grey hair at that time, though!

Sam had good judgement and was good at spotting people who were “faking it”. He trained several Ph.D. students at MTU, whose theses are listed on our departmental site. He treated them fairly and thoughtfully.

I think he would be proud of what the MTU Physics Department has become.

Sincerely, Don Beck, Professor MTU Physics


The last time I visited him in Chicago (2007 or so) he wasn’t doing very well. This was after his second quadrupole bypass surgery. He refused to go for a walk and didn’t want to sit in the evening in his open garage, drink wine with me and look at beautiful Chicago women. This used to be his favorite evening activity each time I would show up.

However, he felt good enough to take me for a ride in his car to the nearest Dunkin-Donuts where I had coffee (black) and he had few of the greasiest donuts out there. On the way back he insisting on stopping at IHOP and eating a helping of fries. All of this was a great secret because Janet wouldn’t let him eat that stuff. He would just tell me that he wants to die happy.

Jacek Borysow, MTU Physics


Sam had a wonderfully strange sense of humor and an ability to tell you just about anything with a straight face, no matter how outrageous. One time I went to a dinner get-together and saw that Sam was there without his wife, Janet. This was unusual and so I asked him about it. He leaned toward me, looked me straight in the eyes and with a most serious tone said “Janet left me.” He continued to look at me with a most serious look for several seconds while I squirmed with discomfort at my faux pas. Then he broke a small smile, sat back, and completed his sentence “…to go to Chicago for the weekend.” He knew he had gotten me once again.

Bryan Suits, MTU Physics Dept


Sam gave me a chance as a grad student and started me on the path to becoming a true experimentalist. He provided me with the skills that enabled me to achieve what I have accomplished today. He also had a humor that was his own. I will never forget his pet squirrels. He was so proud of them, in a weird sort of way. If he had ever shown them to you, you would understand what I mean.

Mark Parent, Naval Research Laboratory, Wash D.C.


Sam had his office down the hall from mine. It was always fun to stop by and talk to him about everything, latest news, science, politics, culture. He was widely read and had a wicked sense of humor. Sam would take on everything, especially what he perceived as nonsense, trivialities, and stupidities emanating from administrative authorities. He made sure that later, when I became dean, I would not lose sight of what’s essential in a university.

Max Seel, MTU Physics, Prvost and VP for Academic Affairs (interim)


As a fresh MTU graduate student from China back in 80’s, I used to respectfully address him as “Professor Marshall”. Soon, I was fortunate to have him as my advisor and he insisted that I called him Sam. At first, he gave an impression of very serious and straight physics professor and did not smile much, but deep down, as I spent more and more time with him, he was a very kind and caring advisor and perfect gentlemen.

So many times when we had to stay late in the lab because of an unexpected glitch in an experiment, we would be pleasantly surprised by Uncle Sam’s personal delivery of wonderful, greasy supreme pan pizza from Pizza Hut. That’s why Pizza Hut is still my favorite pizza restaurant till today. Sam used to take us to Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago for some experiment. Almost every time, he would treat us at his favorite Chinese restaurant, “Red Cotton”, in the Old Chinatown. His favorite one was always “hot and sour soup” and we would share a big bowl of soup each time. He claimed that the soup at that Chinese restaurant was so unique that one could find nowhere else.

After graduating from Michigan Tech, I was fortunate to work with him again at Argonne National Laboratory as the postdoctoral fellow. He was spending his Sabbatical leave from MTU. He was very proud to see that my experimental physics training at his lab was making an important contribution to the success of our Photosynthesis projects at Argonne. During that time, my wife and I visited his Chicago home. Sam proudly demonstrated his puppy dog talent playing as “a peace maker” between Janet and him (by “faking an argument” with Janet in front of his dog). To this day, we still vividly remember that scene and all that seemed to be not very long ago.

Sam used to walk daily as part of Doctor’s exercise order. He had this special type of hat to wear because of cold Houghton weather and we called it KGB hat. He loved that name and every time he would tell his walking buddies that he had to get his KGB hat before going out with them. He said that made him feel like a KGB agent in the movies. He was always proud of his energy and keen sense of his surroundings. He always reminded me that one is really too old when he stops noticing beautiful women around him. Sam was always young at heart.

Above all, Sam was a true experimental physicist. As his graduate student, I spent long hours working with him in his EPR laboratory to assemble different waveguide configurations and to design various experiment. The experimental physics skills I learned through that hands-on experience working with him on various physics instruments benefit me throughout my career. Even today, I still see myself approaching the problem solving the way I was trained in his lab. Sam was a kind and intelligent teacher, a dear friend, and a humble human being. He will forever live in our hearts and truly be missed by many.

Yuenian Zhang, Clinical Radiation Oncology Physicist, Indianapolis, IN


I remember Sam not only as a terrific scientific mentor who really helped me develop professionally during the early stages of my career, but also as a warm father figure who made me feel welcome as a recently immigrant from China still adjusting to a new environment.

Sam’s compassion extended well beyond the way he treated his students. One morning in the late 1980’s, we were driving to the Argonne National Laboratory when a puppy jumped out into the road in front of us on the high way 141 near the Crystal Falls. Fortunately, when we hopped out and checked under the car, we found the puppy uninjured, but it was apparently quite traumatized from the near accident. Even though we were in a rush, Sam took the time to calm the puppy, caressing it tenderly in his arms, before we resumed our trip.

I am forever indebted to Sam for giving me the opportunity to work in his lab. I am a better person for having known him, and I am truly saddened to learn of his passing.

Cheng Yu, Prof. Radiation Oncology, Keck School of Medicine, USC


In Memoriam: Charles Mandeville

Charles Mandeville
Charles Mandeville

Charles Earle Mandeville III passed away on January 14, 2003. Mandeville was a nuclear physicist who became head of the Physics Department at Michigan Tech in the early seventies. He worked at such places as MIT, the Bartol Research Foundation, University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Kansas State University, and Kaman Nuclear. His research interests involved gamma-ray spectroscopy, and he did early pioneering work on beta decay of nuclei. Mandeville was a musician and a collector of antiques and art objects. He settled in Socorro, New Mexico after retirement. He was a man of many accomplishments and will be missed by all who knew him.

Posted Fall 2003 in Physics News.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Charles Mandeville.