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February 19th, 2012

Wendell Sterling Williams, 1928-2010

Published on February 19th, 2012 | By: Eileen De Guire

Wendell Sterling Williams, 82, emeritus professor of physics, materials science and bioengineering and director emeritus of the Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials at the University of Illinois, died Nov. 20, 2010.

 

Born on Oct. 27, 1928, in Lake Forest, he was the son of Sterling Price Williams, head of philosophy and psychology at Lake Forest College, and Mary Eleanor Simpson Williams.

 

Williams graduated from Lake Forest High School as valedictorian of his class and sang lead roles in several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He attended Deep Springs College in California on full scholarship and graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

 

At Swarthmore, he cofounded the Swarthmore Savoyards with his wife-to-be, Dorothy Watt, and as music director and conductor produced several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. In graduate school at Cornell University, he and his wife founded the Cornell Savoyards, which still continues. He was also elected to Telluride Association, an educational trust, and served as an officer.

 

After receiving his PhD, Williams was a research physicist for Union Carbide Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio, working on transition-metal carbides, nitrides and borides and leading a lab chorus, the Carbon 14. He also founded and directed a community chorus, the Southwest Messiah Chorale, annually performing Handel’s “Messiah” and other major choral works with the Parma Philharmonic Orchestra.

 

While in Cleveland he was invited by Robert Shaw’s church choir to direct “The Mikado” while the Shaw Chorale was on tour in Russia.

 

In 1967, Williams joined the Illinois faculty as associate professor, later professor, of physics, ceramic engineering and bioengineering. In 1986, he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and in 1987 won the Burlington Northern Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research. He also was honored as instructor of the year for three separate years by Alpha Epsilon Delta, undergraduate premedical society.

 

For several years Williams headed the university’s Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials, which brought together faculty from across the campus to apply scientific techniques to the analysis of art and archaeological objects from Illinois and also from major museums.

 

From 1968 to 1975 he was music director of the Unitarian Universalist Church.

 

On leaves from Illinois, he served as Energy Research Coordinator, 1974-75, and Section Head, Division of Materials Research, 1977-78, for the National Science Foundation, and directed a study of science and engineering education for the National Academy of Sciences. He also was a senior research visitor at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Imperial College, London.

 

Retiring from Illinois in 1987, he was appointed chairman of materials science and engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. In his first year as chairman, he was chosen by students throughout the campus for the university’s Carl Wittke Award for Distinguished Teaching. He retired from CWRU in 1995 and returned to Urbana. After his second “retirement” he taught at MIT and at New College, honors college of the University of South Florida. He was also an adjunct professor at SUNY Albany.

 

During his long career, he supervised 56 graduate theses at Illinois and CWRU and published more than 100 research papers.

 

He was a consultant for the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, the Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia Laboratory, and the Nordson Corporation.

 

He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and The American Ceramic Society, councillor of the Materials Research Society,and past president of the Society for Physical Regulation in Biology and Medicine. For his scientific achievements, he was elected to the Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C.

 

He leaves his wife, Dorothy; daughters Jennifer (Matthew Brown), musicology professor at Grinnell College, Iowa, and Laura (Chris Matheos), clinical psychologist at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, Calif.; and sister, Marilou Williams Chapman, of West Bend, Wis., and Bradenton, Fla.

 

Donations in his memory may be made to Deep Springs College, Dyer, Nev., or the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

(Information from ACerS records and The News-Gazette)


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