In Memoriam: Gordon Aubrecht

by Marty Kich

Gordon Aubrecht photo

Gordon Aubrecht passed away at age 72 on Monday, November 21. Gordon was the long-time President of the advocacy chapter at Ohio State University. For almost a decade, I had had contact with him through the Ohio Conference of AAUP. But our acquaintance went much farther back than that.

Gordon and I were founding members of the Association for the University Regional Campuses of Ohio (AURCO), which is approaching the 25th anniversary of its founding. About five or six years ago at AURCO’s annual meeting, we happened to eat lunch together, and as we were looking around the room, we turned to each other and said simultaneously, “My God, we’re the last two left!” To be honest, my exclamation was more vulgar than Gordon’s, and to be more precise, we were the last two founding members of the association who had still remained active in it.

I am not sure how much I realized it until I learned of the terrible medical diagnosis that he had received, but Gordon was more than just a recurring presence in my professional life. Knowing him for a quarter of a century has very much contributed to how I have come to view our profession and the issues that we face.

Over those years, I saw firsthand Gordon’s commitment to developing and sustaining AURCO, which was been demonstrated in many large and small ways. It never seemed to matter to him whether the contribution that he was making was something that was likely to get noticed. More recently, of course, I also become more pointedly aware of his career-long commitment to promoting and defending AAUP's core principles. And I also know that he had been equally active in several discipline-related associations.

But beyond those very significant professional contributions, it is very clear to anyone who knew him, even as casually as I got to know him, that Gordon had sustained a truly extraordinary commitment to and enthusiasm for teaching. It is said that good teachers change people's lives, and Gordon very clearly changed more lives over the last 40-plus years of teaching at OSU’s Marion Campus than he or anyone else could possibly count. Most of us find considerable satisfaction in what we do, but only a few of us, like Gordon, seem to find a vocation, in the truest sense, in being a teacher.

from Steve Toepfer

Gordon stood out as a bright light in the world in so many ways and for all the right reasons. He possessed a scintillating intellect, was a detail detective, and a compassionate teacher who was vitally engaged with students, teachers, and peers. He cared about many things. That’s what I liked about Gordon. He had passion. It was impossible to know him and overlook the simple fact that he was driven by a passionate zest for life.

One of my first memories of him was about ten years ago at the annual AURCO Conference. I was walking with a small group of mainstay AURCO members, all of which I was just getting to know. As we were talking I finished my bottle of water; one of those $2.99 for 24 bottle deals you find at Giant Eagle. I promptly deposited it in the nearest garbage can. A large hand gently squeezed my shoulder. A deep voice said, “Let me show you where that goes.” As he reached into the garbage can to retrieve the misplaced pollutant he added, “We recycle around here.” He then marched the entire group half way around campus looking for a proper recycling bin. It’s an example of how he lived his life. He didn’t just wait for the big opportunities to act on his convictions (he mastered those as well) but he grappled with the small moments. Whether it was the environment, a chance to talk about physics, or a moment to explain the power of theory, he was relentlessly engaged in the world.

I felt like I was just getting to know Gordon and wish I knew him better. Just six weeks ago, he said in no uncertain terms that he would make it to 100 years. I wish he had. I also know that he made a huge impact in his life and packed far more than a century into his 72 years. He will be missed.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

The Marion Star

Longtime Ohio State Marion physics professor, Dr. Gordon J. Aubrecht, II, 73, passed away at his home in Delaware Monday afternoon, Nov. 21. He’d been informed that he had untreatable cancer in late September.

In an e-mail to faculty and staff, Dr. Aubrecht said he was shocked by the diagnosis, noting he’d only taken one sick day in his 43 years of teaching at Ohio State Marion. He received his doctorate from Princeton University in 1971.

Aubrecht received Ohio State’s Faculty Award for Distinguished University Service in 2008.

"Gordon was dedicated to his students and shared his love of physics with hundreds of them through his tenure here,” said Ohio State Marion dean and director, Dr. Gregory S. Rose, “but he was also a scholar in all senses of the word, publishing numerous papers and writing a textbook titled "Energy" in 2005. We will miss his intellect and personal energy on this campus.”

A close friend, Dr. Brian McEnnis called Aubrecht “a driving force” and “a central figure” in shaping Ohio State’s regional campuses. He helped set up a regional campus council that represented the interests of the regional campuses to Ohio State’s central administration. McEnnis said it was Aubrecht who insisted that faculty on the regional campuses be held to the same standards of research and scholarship as those employed in Columbus.

In addition to his teaching duties, Aubrecht was active in many organizations including the American Physical Society, the Association for University Regional Campuses of Ohio, and the American Association of University Professors. In fact, at the time of his passing, he was the president of The Ohio State University Chapter of the AAUP. Fellow member Dr. Douglas Macbeth called him “a tireless defender of academic freedom and an energetic participant in University governance.” Macbeth noted that “Gordon was passionate about physics and physics education. He shared his knowledge beyond the classroom in his role as a public intellectual.”

For many years, Aubrecht was involved in helping high school and middle school science teachers develop an inquiry­based model for science education. He was working on writing a book on the subject at the time of his death.

Ohio State Marion has established a fund to name the physics lab in the new science and engineering building rising on the campus in honor of Aubrecht. hose interested in contributing may do so by sending a check to the Ohio State University at Marion Development Office, 1465 Mount Vernon Avenue, Marion, OH 43302 made out to the Ohio State University Foundation, fund number 315649. Online contributions may also be made at www.giveto.osu.edu and designating fund 315649.

Aubrecht's burial was Wednesday, Nov. 23, in Gambier.

Physics Department at Ohio State Website

Longtime Ohio State Marion physics professor, Dr. Gordon J. Aubrecht, II, passed away at his home in Delaware, Ohio, Monday afternoon, November 21st. He’d been informed that he had untreatable cancer in late September. In an email to faculty and staff, Dr. Aubrecht said he was shocked by the diagnosis, noting he’d only taken one sick day in his 43 years of teaching at Ohio State Marion. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1971. He was 73 years old at the time of his death.

“Gordon was dedicated to his students and shared his love of physics with hundreds of them through his tenure here,” said Ohio State Marion dean and director, Dr. Gregory S. Rose, “but he was also a scholar in all senses of the word, publishing numerous papers and writing a textbook titled Energy in 2005. We will miss his intellect and personal energy on this campus.”

His close friend, Dr. Brian McEnnis called Aubrecht “a driving force” and “a central figure” in shaping Ohio State’s regional campuses. He helped set up a regional campus council that represented the interests of the regional campuses to Ohio State’s central administration. McEnnis said it was Dr. Aubrecht who insisted that faculty on the regional campuses be held to the same standards of research and scholarship as those employed in Columbus.

Dr. Aubrecht received Ohio State’s Faculty Award for Distinguished University Service in 2008.

In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Aubrecht was active in many organizations including the American Physical Society, the Association for University Regional Campuses of Ohio, and the American Association of University Professors. In fact, at the time of his passing, he was the president of The Ohio State University Chapter of the AAUP. Fellow member, Dr. Douglas Macbeth called him “a tireless defender of academic freedom and an energetic participant in University governance.” Dr. Macbeth noted that “Gordon was passionate about physics and physics education. He shared his knowledge beyond the classroom in his role as a public intellectual.”

For many years, Dr. Aubrecht was involved in helping high school and middle school science teachers develop an inquiry-based model for science education. He was working on writing a book on the subject at the time of his death.

Ohio State Marion has established a fund to name the physics lab in the new science and engineering building rising on the campus in honor of Dr. Aubrecht. A number of organizations, former students, and colleagues have contributed to the effort. Those interested in contributing may do so by sending a check to the Ohio State University at Marion Development Office, 1465 Mount Vernon Avenue, Marion, OH 43302 made out to the Ohio State University Foundation, fund number 315649. Online contributions may also be made at www.giveto.osu.edu and designating fund 315649.

Dr. Aubrecht was laid to rest on Wednesday, November 23rd in a green burial service in Gambier, Ohio.

More information about Gordon's academic work and family can be found here --> physics.osu.edu/people/aubrecht.1

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