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R. Stanley (“Stan”) Alexander, longtime professor of physics and astronomy at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, passed away on 5 December 2004 at age 95. Born in Topeka to Clarence S. and Grace V. Alexander on 5 January 1909, Alexander completed his B.S. degree at Washburn in 1936 and his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1940, after which he returned to join Washburn’s physics-astronomy faculty, serving as the department’s chair from 1948 to 1974. During World War II, Alexander worked with the U. S. Navy to equip its ships with recently developed radar technology.
In 1966, Alexander retrieved Washburn’s 12-inch Warner and Swasey refractor after a tornado blew off the observatory roof, led a fundraising effort for its refurbishment, and established an endowed fund for its ongoing care. He is reported to have carried the damaged objective lens in his lap on the way to Los Angeles for its repair. A few years later, he installed the first computer on the Washburn campus. He is remembered by his students as an inspirational teacher who fostered their interest in science and engineering. After retiring in 1974, he continued to teach as emeritus professor until 1980. Washburn’s alumni honored him with their Distinguished Service Award in 1979.
Alexander was an avid golfer into his 90s and also a charter member of the Topeka Camera Club and the Topeka Civic Symphony, for which he played percussion. He was the husband of 63 years to Helen Alexander, father of Michael and David Alexander, and brother of Ernestine Sumey, of Casper, Wyoming.
Obituary written by: Alan Hirshfeld (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)
BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2017, 49, 004