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Founding Chair of Cal State Fullerton’s Physics Department Dies
Raymond V. Adams, emeritus professor, died Feb. 2 after a long illness

February 12, 2007 :: No. 125

Raymond V. Adams, emeritus professor and founding chair of the Physics Department at Cal State Fullerton, died Feb. 2 after a long illness. The Fullerton resident was 86.

Adams joined the faculty in 1960, when the university was known as Orange County State College. It was the first year that classes were held on the campus’s permanent site.

Adams started as a professor of physics and became founding chair of the department that same year. He planned the physical facilities on the sixth floor of McCarthy Hall — the university’s first permanent instructional facility — and was responsible for hiring faculty members and for developing the physics curriculum. The curriculum included several laboratory courses to supplement the theory courses. More typical at that time in physics curricula were theory courses only, according to emeritus physics faculty members.

“I arrived in 1989, the year Dr. Adams retired,” said current department chair Murtadha Khakoo, “so I didn’t get to interact with him very much. But I can certainly tell you he was missed by the department when he left. He was extremely well respected. He was very serious about his work and his teaching.”
Roger Nanes, immediate past chair of the department and a colleague of Adams’ beginning in 1972, when Nanes arrived on campus, recalls that Adams “was always a curricular leader in the department, and he taught a tough course. He had high standards for his students and high expectations. One of his students was Dan Black.”

 The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ science laboratory center, Dan Black Hall, was named for Black in 2006, in recognition of his $4.2 million gift to the college, along with $75,000 he gives annually to support the Dan Black Program in Physics and Business. A 1967 CSUF graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and found success as an entrepreneur, Black has more than once cited Adams as one of his most influential professors.

“Constant upgrading and development of the physics curriculum were always important to him,” said Nanes. “That is why when he retired, he established the
Constance B. Eiker and Raymond V. Adams Creativity Award.” The award is given to undergraduates who develop new experiments that can be used in the department’s teaching laboratories. Adams obtained funding from the National Science Foundation in 1981 for the purchase of specialized equipment that made it possible for students to get hands-on experience in planning and conducting automated physics experiments. Adams said at the time: “The ultimate result will be to provide area industry with uniquely educated applied physicists.”

Robert Gill, another of Adams’ students, came to Cal State Fullerton as a student in 1969 and took courses taught by the professor. Gill struck up a friendship that only ended with Adams’ death. Gill became a part-time lecturer in physics and astronomy at Fullerton after earning his bachelor’s degree in physics, then in 1990, became the campus environmental compliance officer, not leaving until 2005, when he took a position at Cal State Dominguez Hills as director of risk management and environmental health and occupational safety. About Adams, Gill said, very simply, “He was my mentor. He was my mentor in more than just physics; he taught me how to approach things and how to solve problems. He was a good friend.”

Adams was active on the campus outside of the Physics Department, playing an influential role in formulating policies for governance and was one of the first chairs of the Faculty Council, now known as the Academic Senate. Even after his retirement, he continued to visit the campus to consult with colleagues and to mentor and tutor students.

Adams’ early research interest was in cosmic rays, resulting in a number of published papers, most notably his paper on the subject with Nobel laureate Carl D. Anderson of Caltech, “On the Mass and the Disintegration Products of the Mesotron.” Other papers include “Cosmic Rays at 30,000 Feet,” also with Anderson, and “The Nuclear Interactions of Cosmic Rays.”

“Once he arrived at this university, however, his focus was on educating the students,” said Mark Shapiro, emeritus professor of physics and department chair from 1989 to 1996.

Adams earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Kansas State University and doctorate in physics at Caltech. In the midst of his doctoral studies, he served as a scientific consultant to the Army’s Far East Air Forces in the summer of 1945, giving technical assistance in setting up in-field training in the use of rockets for pilots.

He launched his teaching career at Yale, where he was assistant professor of physics, moved up to associate professor at Mount Holyoke and later Wayne State University, where he became professor of physics and acting chair of the department before coming to Fullerton. Adams was a fellow of the American Physical Society.

He leaves no surviving family members.

A memorial gathering will be held Friday, Feb. 16, in the Cal State Fullerton Physics Department. Limited seating is available. Call 657-278-3366 for more information.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the endowment for the Constance B. Eiker and Raymond V. Adams Creativity Award, care of the Cal State Fullerton University Advancement Foundation, 2600 Nutwood Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831.

Media Contact: Russ Hudson, Public Affairs, 657-278-4007

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