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Dean W. Stebbins (1913-2008)


Posted By: Ames Tribune
Date: 7/18/2008 at 16:37:45

THE AMES TRIBUNE, Ames, Story County, Iowa, Friday, July 18, 2008.
Dean W. Stebbins, a physicist and university administrator at Iowa State University and Michigan Technological University, died Thursday, July 17, at Northcrest Community in Ames. He was 95. The cause was pneumonia complicating a brief series of illnesses, his son, Robert, said. A celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. Monday, July 21, at Northcrest Community.

Mr. Stebbins began his science career after listening to radio station KDKA in Pittsburg while growing up on a farm in Montana. He wanted to learn how radio waves could travel such long distances, and as a college student he enrolled in the engineering program at Montana State College, where he achieved top honors. He subsequently took a doctorate degree in physics at Iowa State College before entering service in the World War II.

After serving in Australia and the Philippines, he returned briefly to Lehigh University and then moved to Iowa State University where he taught physics and administered a research program in the developing field of operations research. That experience led to a term of service at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., followed by his moving to Michigan Technological University where he served as physics chairman, academic dean, and university vice president. He retired upon the death of his first wife, Jane.

In retirement he engaged his passion for family history, compiling a complete genealogy of 16 generations of his Stebbins line from the 1634 arrival in Massachusetts of his English ancestor Rowland to his great-grandchildren Jaron and Devin in Arizona. His bibliographic research was supplemented by extensive travel explorations with his first wife, Jane, and then even more fully with his second wife, Jayne. These trips also frequently included travel, preferably by ship, to watch solar and lunar eclipses and visits to many of the world's historical sites. He was an avid amateur astronomer who proudly retained the photographic plate of a distant star he recorded while operating the large telescope at Palomar Observatory in California when he visited there in 1952.

Mr. Stebbins was an Ames and Iowa State booster. He served on the boards of the Ames International Festival of Music and the Octagon, and for several years he sat at the information desk in City Hall. He was particularly proud of teaching English to foreign students who came to Ames to study. In his later years at Northcrest, he and Jayne watched nearly every Iowa State athletic contest on television, always cheering and hoping for the home teams.

Dean W. Stebbins was born Jan. 14, 1913, in Billings, Mont. His father was a farmer who moved from Illinois in 1907 to a newly developing Montana homestead; his mother was a school teacher. In 1936, Mr. Stebbins married Florence Jane Buchner. She died in 1974. Their son, Bruce, died in 1967. In addition to his second wife, Jayne, whom he married in 1974, Mr. Stebbins is survived by his other son, Robert, granddaughter Kirstin and her husband Rajiv, and two great-grandchildren, Jaron and Devin.

Mr. Stebbins was devoted to his family and to the love of discussion of ideas with them and his friends. He relished helping others and was known for his warm smile, gentle humor, and his willingness to listen attentively to those whom he helped or who helped him.
"He was very proud of growing up on a farm and always felt that was the most wonderful way to be a boy," Robert said of his father's youth.

Stevens Memorial Chapel is handling arrangements.


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