Donald Richardson Beck
GREER, SC – Donald Richardson Beck passed away at home on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, in Greer, South Carolina. He was 82 years old. He had emergency surgery in March and spent several weeks in the hospital and in a rehab facility before returning home on May 10, 2022.
Don was born in Patterson, New Jersey in 1940 to Richard and Eleanor Beck. He and his family lived in several different places in New Jersey and summered in Island Heights near grandparents. Don graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dickenson University with a major in Physics. He then went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, where he earned a doctorate in Physics in 1968. The day before, he married Susan M. Gilbert of Allentown. They were the loves of each other’s lives.
During the summers that he was in school, Don worked for the Navy in Bethesda, Maryland. When he finished his doctorate, Don and Susan headed to Boulder, CO, where he went to work for E.U. Condon at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the University of Colorado. When E.U. Condon retired, Don went to do teaching and research at Yale University in the Chemistry Department. During the Yale period, his son, Richard, was born. After several years, Don became an assistant professor at the Yeshiva University in New York City, maintaining contact with colleagues at Yale. In 1976, Don moved his family to Athens, Greece where he was employed by the National Hellenic Research Foundation to train young scientists and to continue his research. He was an instrument for positive change there. In 1978, he moved to Champaign, Illinois to teach Physics at the University of Illinois.
Finally, in 1980, he found a home in Houghton, Michigan at Michigan Technological University. Much of his work at Tech centered on computational atomic physics applied to transition and rare-earth metal ions.
He was passionate and persistent about his research.
He was an MTU research awardee in 1999 and named a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2001 in recognition of his seminal work on relativistic correlation methodologies in electronic structure theory. He published over 150 scientific papers over the years.
He received funding from many sources, perhaps most notably for his ongoing work on Lanthanide ions which received continuous NSF funding for over 30 years.
He always played an active role in the department, college, and university. Most notably, he helped to develop, and provide leadership for, the graduate programs in the department. As principal advisor, he graduated ten PhD and six MS students. His students remember him for his humor, his stories and, even more, for his humility and kindness. He served on the MTU Senate, where he was an advocate for the library and for improved faculty benefits. Over the years, he was a friend, colleague, and mentor to many in the Physics department and beyond. He retired in 2016, a Professor Emeritus of Physics.
Don loved the Upper Peninsula of Michigan–particularly South Range. He served on the Village Council for thirty-three years, and always thought that the council was a wonderful balance of people who truly cared for their community. He loved his wonderful neighbors there.
Don was a great dad and an amazing GPA for his grandchildren who enjoyed his company. He was always a hard worker who had unusual insights into nearly any situation. He was a positive example for academic achievement, being a global citizen and kindness to others. His grandchildren call him a “master of history” and a “master of Go Fish.” He loved most music, but particularly enjoyed the music of Buddy Guy and other rhythm and blues virtuosos. He loved a good murder mystery.
Don is survived by his wife, Susan, best friend and love of 54 years; his greatly valued son, Richard (Esther); his three wonderful grandchildren: Skyler, Mason, and Mia; also, by his sister, Marylin “Lin” A. Beck (William “Bill” Pardee) of Westport Point, Massachusetts; as well as his cousin, Janet Arnold of New York City; niece, Katharine “Katie” Barbee (John Eric), great nephew, Elijah “Eli,” great niece, Madelin “Maddy,” of Clancy, Montana; niece, Caroline “Carrie” Klute, of Cascade Locks, Oregon, and niece, Laura Cahoon (Brendon), and great nieces, Thea and Amelia Cahoon of Austin, Texas; brother-in-law, R. William “Bill” Gilbert of Bethlehem, PA. He is preceded in death by his sister Virginia “Ginny” Kluthe, his brother, Stephen “Steve” Beck, and his parents, Richard, and Eleanor.
A ZOOM memorial service is planned for the near future. The family held a private viewing of Don.
The family has been assisted by the Mackey Funerals and Cremations at Century Drive, Greenville, SC.
The family thanks the Heartland Hospice of Simpsonville, SC as well as the EMTs of Greer for their remarkable, compassionate assistance.
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In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Michigan Tech Fund, to Grace Lutheran Church, South Range, MI, or to Lutheran Refugee Relief food banks.