Remember Professors Beck, Mendenhall, and Stottlemyer

Donald Beck

Donald Beck

Donald Richardson Beck passed away at his home in Greer, South Carolina. He was 82 years old. He had emergency surgery in March and spent several weeks in the hospital and in a rehab facility before returning home on May 10.

Don was born in Patterson, New Jersey in 1940 to Richard and Eleanor Beck. He and his family lived in several different places in New Jersey and summered in Island Heights near grandparents. Don graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dickenson University with a major in Physics. He then went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, where he earned a doctorate in Physics in 1968. The day before, he married Susan M. Gilbert of Allentown. They were the loves of each other’s lives.

During the summers that he was in school, Don worked for the Navy in Bethesda, Maryland. When he finished his doctorate, Don and Susan headed to Boulder, CO, where he went to work for E.U. Condon at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the University of Colorado. When E.U. Condon retired, Don went to do teaching and research at Yale University in the Chemistry Department. During the Yale period, his son, Richard, was born. After several years, Don became an assistant professor at the Yeshiva University in New York City, maintaining contact with colleagues at Yale. In 1976, Don moved his family to Athens, Greece where he was employed by the National Hellenic Research Foundation to train young scientists and to continue his research. He was an instrument for positive change there. In 1978, he moved to Champaign, Illinois to teach Physics at the University of Illinois.

Finally, in 1980, he found a home in Houghton, Michigan at Michigan Technological University. Much of his work at Tech centered on computational atomic physics applied to transition and rare-earth metal ions. He was passionate and persistent about his research. He was an MTU research awardee in 1999 and named a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2001 in recognition of his seminal work on relativistic correlation methodologies in electronic structure theory. He published over 150 scientific papers over the years. He received funding from many sources, perhaps most notably for his ongoing work on Lanthanide ions which received continuous NSF funding for over 30 years.

He always played an active role in the department, college, and university. Most notably, he helped to develop, and provide leadership for, the graduate programs in the department. As principal advisor, he graduated ten PhD and six MS students. His students remember him for his humor, his stories and, even more, for his humility and kindness. He served on the MTU Senate, where he was an advocate for the library and for improved faculty benefits. Over the years, he was a friend, colleague, and mentor to many in the Physics department and beyond. He retired in 2016, a Professor Emeritus of Physics.

Don loved the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—particularly South Range. He served on the Village Council for thirty-three years, and always thought that the council was a wonderful balance of people who truly cared for their community. He loved his wonderful neighbors there.

Don was a great dad and an amazing GPA for his grandchildren who enjoyed his company. He was always a hard worker who had unusual insights into nearly any situation. He was a positive example for academic achievement, being a global citizen and kindness to others. His grandchildren call him a “master of history” and a “master of Go Fish.” He loved most music, but particularly enjoyed the music of Buddy Guy and other rhythm and blues virtuosos. He loved a good murder mystery.

Don is survived by his wife, Susan, best friend and love of 54 years; his greatly valued son, Richard (Esther); his three wonderful grandchildren: Skyler, Mason, and Mia; also, by his sister, Marylin “Lin” A. Beck (William “Bill” Pardee) of Westport Point, Massachusetts; as well as his cousin, Janet Arnold of New York City; niece, Katharine ”Katie” Barbee (John Eric), great nephew, Elijah “Eli,” great niece, Madelin “Maddy,” of Clancy, Montana; niece, Caroline ”Carrie” Klute, of Cascade Locks, Oregon, and niece, Laura Cahoon (Brendon), and great nieces, Thea and Amelia Cahoon of Austin, Texas; brother-in-law, R. William “Bill” Gilbert of Bethlehem, PA. He is preceded in death by his sister Virginia “Ginny” Kluthe, his brother, Stephen “Steve” Beck, and his parents, Richard, and Eleanor.


David Mendenhall

David Mendenhall died June 9, 2022 in New York City at the age of 77. He was born to George and Eathel Mendenhall February 12, 1945 in Iowa City, Iowa. Since his father was in the US Navy at that time, he did not meet his father until he was almost one year old.

David, as he was known to friends and family, was the eldest of five sons, and lived in Springfield, Ohio until his parents moved permanently to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1952. David excelled in his academic pursuits in high school and college; earning a national Merit scholarship, winning the southeastern Michigan High School science fair, and was the high school class salutatorian. During his high school years, he performed basic chemical work at Parke Davis in Ann Arbor, and was proud of the fact that he bicycled to work, a distance of over 12 miles one way.

After high school he attended the University of Michigan, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1967. After matriculating from the University of Michigan, he pursued a PhD in chemistry from Harvard where he received his degree in 1970. After receiving his PhD he obtained a post-doc fellowship to work at the National Research Council in Ottawa, Ontario, where he met his future wife, Yvonne Hendricks, whom he married in 1972. The couple then moved to California where he worked at the Stanford Research Institute and moved to Columbus, Ohio to work at Batelle Labs in 1975. His two children, Catherine Astrid and George Stuart were born in Columbus.

In 1980, David received a professorship at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, where he taught and performed research until 2001. After retiring from teaching, he founded Northern Sources, a chemical manufacturing and research company based in Hancock, Michigan. Shortly after this venture was started, his wife Yvonne of 28 years died of cancer. David’s next chapter was a move to New York, where he renamed his company “Eastern Sources” and married Ying Dong in 2006. His life-long fascination with chemical preparations continued in his manufacturing of compounds and materials that were too complicated and complex for most other companies to make.

David’s keen mind and analytical skills were second to none. David developed multiple myeloma and various other afflictions in the last three years which impacted his company’s production. The successive treatments for his cancer led to a stroke earlier this year, and then he was overwhelmed with an infection which eventually led to his death. David will be remembered for his keen mind, wonderful wit, generosity, and charming personality.

As the member of Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran and the tallest member of the Chinese church that he regularly attended with his wife, David was fondly remembered by the congregants. He was an internationalist, having lived in Jerusalem, Jordan, Freiburg, Germany, and having travelled frequently to China and east Asia. As a professor, David mentored hundreds of students in chemistry whose careers were impacted by his generosity and insight.

David is survived by his wife, Ying Dong, children, George Stuart of San Diego and Catherine Astrid (Brownstein) of Boston, step-daughter Jennifer Schumacher and her husband Scott Schumacher, son-in-law John Brownstein, grandchildren Jackson and Caroline Brownstein, and brothers Lauri, Stanley, Gordon, and Stephen.


Bob Stottlemyer

John Robert (Bob) Stottlemyer, a faculty member at Michigan Tech from 1979-1990, died unexpectedly of natural causes May 31 on a research expedition at a remote field site along the Agashashok River in northern Alaska. 

He is survived by his dear friend of 43 years, Carla (Char) del Mar, and his sister Laura. He remained an adjunct professor with the Department of Biological Sciences until his death.

Stottlemyer’s three decades of research at the Agashashok River site were just a small part of his remarkable career studying environmental issues in northern landscapes and his incredibly full life of eight decades.

He was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, on June 19, 1940, and grew up in a family with two brothers and a sister. His boyhood was spent running around the local woods, while family trips to national parks set the stage for his professional focus. He majored in forestry at Pennsylvania State University, with summer jobs fighting wildfires as a smoke jumper in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and working as an interpreter in national parks. He studied forest ecology for his Ph.D. at Duke University under the supervision of Professor Bill Ralston, focusing on forest soils and water quality. His Ph.D. research at the Fraser Experimental Forest in the Colorado Rockies was one of the first to combine the hydrology of mountain streams with water quality and nutrient budgets, an approach that persisted in his research over the next five decades, providing some of the best long-term records of forests and streams in the world.

After graduating from Duke, Stottlemyer voyaged the world as a professor with Semester at Sea (then called World Campus Afloat), and then joined the freshly created White House Council on Environmental Quality. The CEQ was responsible for documenting the state of the nation’s environment, providing the core information needed for implementing new environmental laws, including the National Environmental Protection Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

Stottlemyer transitioned from the CEQ to become the lead environmental scientist in the Washington office of the National Park Service, and then served as the regional chief scientist for the Philadelphia office of the NPS. His heart was more in science and research than administration, and he relocated within the NPS to Houghton, beginning decades of collaboration with Michigan Tech. He focused on hydrology, chemistry and processes influencing water quality in remote watersheds from Calumet to Isle Royale National Park, Denali National Park and Noatak National Preserve.

Stottlemyer’s commitment to science was so strong that he self-funded his research for decades following his retirement. His scientific legacy goes well beyond his impressive long-term records for watersheds — he influenced the lives and careers of many colleagues, postdoctoral scientists and students. All of Stottlemyer’s projects served as schoolhouses for his collaborators and students, providing unique experiences that shaped careers and continue to bring insights to environmental issues. His legacy also includes a vast trove of professional photographs documenting the beauties of wild landscapes and some of the changes that developed through his long life.

Stottlemyer’s loss leaves emptiness in many lives, but each time he comes to mind, we all find ourselves smiling with so many grand memories of our unique colleague and friend.

One response to “Remember Professors Beck, Mendenhall, and Stottlemyer

  1. Bob was my graduate advisor from 1983 – 1986 when I enrolled to study the effects of acid deposition on Isle Royale and the Upper Peninsula. He was a famous conversationalist and and ardent lover of all things science. I’m grateful for the guidance he gave during our research together. He was a great boss – and could walk faster than anyone I know! Last fall, when visiting the Copper Country, I passed by his home on Sheldon Ave, recalling our many days, weeks and months in the field or in our lab on the 10th floor of the MEEM building. He also had a great team of grad students and techs who were equally blessed to work along side Bob. You will be missed!
    Dave Hanson ’86.

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