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Julian J. Schreur (1939–2001)

Published onJan 01, 2002
Julian J. Schreur (1939–2001)

Julian Jay Schreur, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, died of complications associated with a liver transplant on 3 November 2001 in Houston, Texas.

Jay was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on 19 January 1939 to Neal and Wilma Schreur. After graduating from high school, he attended Kalamazoo College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1961. He then spent a year at the University of Bonn studying German and astronomy. Upon returning to the United States, he attended the University of Arizona, earning his PhD in Astronomy in 1970 studying under Dr. Bart Bok. During his graduate days in Tucson, Jay met and married math/physics graduate student Barbara Fischer in June 1966. She became a graduate assistant to Elizabeth Roemer the following year. Barbara later earned a PhD in Mathematics at Florida State University and is an AAS member.

In 1970 Jay joined the faculty at Valdosta State College (now Valdosta State University), which, at the time, did not have an astronomy program. Working with Dennis Marks, Jay developed the Bachelor of Science in Astronomy program that was approved in 1973. Today it is still the only undergraduate major in astronomy in the Georgia State University system. From 1970 to 1973, Jay served as the first director of the observatory and planetarium at Valdosta. He became the department head in 1973, holding that position until he left VSU. In the mid-1970s, Jay contracted autoimmune hepatitis and suffered from that affliction for the remainder of his life.

When Jay's wife, Barbara, received an offer of a tenure-track position at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (then Texas A&I University) in 1980, Jay moved to South Texas. He worked for TRW in Corpus Christi from 1980 until 1985, when he began working as a part-time instructor at Texas A&I. In 1987, the Schreurs spent a year in Malaysia where Jay taught physics as part of the Texas International Education Consortium. Upon returning to Kingsville, Jay taught part time in the Physics Department as an associate professor. In 1997 he was hired full time, remaining with the department until he retired in 2001.

During the years that he worked in astronomy, Jay made numerous important contributions. Even though his dissertation was on Stellar Distributions at High Galactic Latitudes, Jay's first love was instrumentation development. While at Valdosta State College, he equipped and commissioned their first telescope. Jay also designed a spectrograph that is still in use there and at other schools. After coming to Kingsville, he assumed responsibility for maintaining our 16-inch telescope. In 1995, he received a NSF-ILI grant to upgrade the mechanical, electrical and instrumentation support on the telescope in order to bring it up to research quality. Today this telescope is used to support faculty and undergraduate research projects.

Jay’s interest and expertise extended beyond small telescopes however. During the summers of 1996 and 1999, he worked at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on the development of the Next Generation Space Telescope. He studied the effects of misalignment and surface dust on the image produced by the segmented mirror. The results from Jay’s study were critical to reducing the costs associated with the NGST. He proved that surface dust produces negligible scattering intensities, thus eliminating the need for an ultra-clean room during NGST mirror assembly.

Jay's impact went beyond those associated with astronomical instrumentation. He was also an excellent teacher who affected the lives of many students. He developed a class for students to learn how to design planetarium shows while at Valdosta. This class has been instrumental in training many planetarium directors across the country. At Texas A&M-Kingsville, Jay worked with the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, guiding senior research projects involving telescope upgrades. He was extremely active in public outreach, often hosting astronomy programs both on campus and off. Jay was always willing to tackle new courses, teaching classes in the physics of sound, optics, and classical mechanics (to name a few) in addition to his astronomy courses. He remained one of the department's more popular teachers, and students actively sought his classes.

Outside the classroom, Jay was an avid golfer. If the weather permitted, he would often shoot at least one round a week. Whenever possible he would take along a student, fellow faculty member, or his wife. Jay was also an accomplished gardener. Rose cuttings from his garden frequently brightened the departmental office at TAMUK. Jay was one of the founding members of the university's "Coffee Klatch", and could be found every morning in the TAMUK Student Union, exchanging news with other faculty members from across the University.

Jay's impact on everyone he met was always a strong and lasting one. He will be remembered not only for his outstanding professional qualities, but also for his upbeat personality, his keen insights, his eagerness to help any student, and the love that he felt for his wife and sons. His death came as a shock to everyone who knew him, and his loss has been keenly felt. Jay is survived by his wife Barbara, and their sons Alex and George. A third son, Stephen, died of cancer in 1988.

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