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Richard D. Schwartz (1941–2011)

Published onDec 01, 2011
Richard D. Schwartz (1941–2011)

Richard D. Schwartz, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, died at his home in Sequim, WA, after a nearly 3 year battle against pancreatic cancer. Richard was born in Pretty Prairie, Kansas. He was active in sports and band and graduated in 1959. After completing a BS at Kansas State, and a Master's degree in Divinity at Union Seminary in NY, he further studied astrophysics, receiving his doctorate from University of Washington in 1973.

When Dick arrived at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1975, he was the only astronomer in the Department of Physics. He built the astronomy program and initiated the B.S. in physics with an astrophysics option that the majority of physics majors choose. Dick was a wonderful teacher and provided outstanding leadership to the campus. He designed and provided oversight on the construction of the campus observatory that was completed in 1981. Since that time the observatory has served as both a teaching and research facility. It is also used for monthly public open houses that draw hundreds of people annually to the campus to view the moon, stars, and planets. Upon his retirement in 2003, the Board of Curators approved naming the campus observatory the “Richard D. Schwartz Observatory” in honor of his distinctive service to the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Just as important as Dick’s service to promote public interest in astronomy was his effort to make the campus observatory a research facility. Dick equipped and maintained the observatory with state-of-art detectors that allowed students to get their first taste of scientific research. From 1991-2003, he managed the campus program for the NASA/Missouri Space Grant Consortium and mentored over 30 research students in projects at the observatory. Some of the results have been published in astronomical journals. Many of those students went on to graduate schools and several have achieved tenure and distinction at major universities.

In addition to Dick’s service to the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he compiled a distinguished record of research that gave him an international reputation as an astrophysicist. During his career, Dick pioneered a new research area studying the energetic mass loss in young stars, leading to hundreds of astronomers and physicists working in this area worldwide. He used a variety of unique telescopes to conduct his research including the Hubble Space Telescope. There have been over 2000 citations to his 80 scientific papers. From 1979-1998, he had continuous funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation and in 1999 he received the Chancellor’s Award for Research and Creativity for his distinguished research record..

Dick retired in 2003 after 28 years at UMSL. However, he kept active in research, using the Galaxy View Observatory that he constructed adjacent to his home in Sequim, Washington. Characteristic of his broad scientific interests, this year the Geological Society of America Today will publish Dick’s commentary on the scientific basis of anthropogenic global warming. He brought a deep compassion to local activities to raise awareness of climate change, offering thoughtful comments in local newspapers that reflected his rare combination of degrees in astrophysics and divinity.

Dick is survived by his wife of 23 years, Eleanor McIntyre, 6 step-children, 14 grandchildren, 2 brothers, 2 nieces, and their families.

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