Richard S. Newrock (1942 - 2013)

Richard Newrock

Richard Newrock

(By: Joseph Scanio, Professor of Physics)

Richard Newrock began his undergraduate studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1960 and graduated in 1964 with a BS degree in physics. He moved to Rutgers for his graduate work where he received his MS in 1966 and his PhD in experimental condensed-matter physics in 1970 under the direction of Bernie Serin. He published his first paper, on aspects of the Kondo effect, soon thereafter. Rick went west to Cornell for three years, first as post-doctoral fellow, then as instructor, and finally as adjunct assistant professor. During this time his interests turned to the resistivity of potassium at low temperatures. Rick once described potassium as "God's own metal."

Rick was appointed assistant professor of physics at the University of Cincinnati (UC) starting in September 1973. He assumed his duties in January 1974 and began a long and successful career in the Physics Department, and at the University. At that time the Department was housed completely in Braunstein Hall. Space was cramped so the norm was two faculty to an office, and the lab was an area of four bare walls that was to become a working data-taking haven. Rick continued his work on potassium and because of his unbridled enthusiasm for the physics he was doing, he attracted a host of graduate students to work with him. In fact, throughout his career, Rick graduated 13 PhDs and trained 8 postdocs. Rick published regularly, garnered external support, and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1979.

The next several years brought important changes in Rick's career. He developed a collaborative working relationship with Jim Garland, a kindred condensed-matter experimentalist at OSU. Together they, and with colleagues, investigated many properties of superconductors, including the Kosterlitz-Thouless transition, two-dimensional Josephson-junction arrays, etc. Rick was awarded significant NSF funding during this time also. It was for work done in this period that Rick was formally recognized in 1996 by his peers for his research excellence when he was elected to Fellowship in the American Physical Society (APS) "for application of large Josephson junction arrays to the study of two-dimensional phase transitions."

It was in the midst of this significant research activity that Rick decided that he wanted to devote some of his energies to administration. He declared his candidacy for the open position of Department Head and was appointed to that position for a five-year term in September 1982. He was reappointed twice for four-year terms until he stepped down in August 1995. Although Rick was associate professor when he was initially appointed as Department Head he was quickly promoted to Professor in 1984 in recognition of the substantial research work he had accomplished subsequent to his promotion to associate professor in 1979.

The Department experienced tremendous growth and focus during Rick's tenure as Department Head. The new Geology/Physics building that was completed in 1986 has many design aspects that were his doing. The laboratory spaces were state-of-the-art, the offices, all on one floor, were, and are, of adequate size, and the internet system that was installed was well in advance of anything that the University had ever contemplated. Research areas in the department were honed and focused, and hiring in these areas was carefully delineated by a well conceived long-range plan worked out by the Department under Rick's leadership. The 12 or so hires made during his tenure have greatly strengthened the Department in all respects. For many years Rick organized and ran the "Midwest Department Heads Meeting" that takes place at O'Hare Airport every year on a Sunday early in November. Approximately 35 Midwest heads from as far away as the east coast and the west coast were able to discover the strengths of the Physics Department at UC.

When Rick stepped down as Department Head in 1995, he went back to full-time research and teaching, though he had never stopped doing research and had published continuously throughout his headship. Rick always attended the March Meeting of the APS. It was an ideal place to reconnect with colleagues and to discuss physics. In addition, Rick relished the idea of organizing an evening during the meeting at a restaurant of note in whatever city the meeting was taking place, where a small group of his friends and colleagues would partake of a truly gourmet meal. Culinary horizons were greatly broadened by the meals that were consumed over the years.

Rick's organizational skills were always in demand during this time and when the complete renovation of top two floors of Braunstein Hall became a reality, he assumed the leadership of the Physics component of the renovation. The result was a splendid set of lecture halls and smaller classrooms on the third floor, along with a truly modern set of elementary laboratories for the Department's large service courses. It was his constant presence at the architectural and construction meetings and the detailed reading and correction of the blueprints that led to the highly functional and aesthetically pleasing space that the Physics Department now enjoys in Braunstein Hall.

Rick's reputation as a no-nonsense administrator who could set goals and achieve them was known across the UC campus. In the summer of 2000 there was a leadership crisis at the College of Applied Science (CAS) and Tony Perzigian, Provost at the time, tapped Rick for the position of Interim Dean of CAS. Rick quickly got to know the faculty and staff, understood the sources of friction, and set about to bring the College together. In his two years as Interim Dean Rick, in consultation with the faculty, had articulated the goals for CAS, the means of achieving them, and had begun their implementation. When the position of permanent Dean of CAS was advertised, Rick applied, and was appointed Dean of CAS in 2002 as the College's unanimous choice. Rick was totally devoted to the success of the College and under his inspired leadership CAS grew in strength and in numbers, and its reputation as a source of talented and competent graduates blossomed in the industries locally and regionally. Employment rates of the graduates were well over 90%. Rick's penchant for good food led to a 2+2 Culinary Arts program with Cincinnati State, a program that worked very well for both institutions. Rick remained Dean of CAS until 2009 when collegiate restructuring resulted in CAS being absorbed by the College of Engineering, now the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).

After a year's administrative leave Rick returned once again to the Physics Department as Professor of Physics in the dual role of research and teaching. In acknowledgement of his research productivity Rick became a Fellow of the Graduate School in 2010. Rick continued research in his lab on the first floor of the Geology/Physics Building along with a colleague from CEAS, and continued publishing papers, some still in press. He enjoyed teaching Statistical Mechanics to upper-level undergraduates, even though he acknowledged that the concepts are notoriously difficult for undergraduates to grasp. His command of condensed-matter physics was evident in the teaching of the graduate-level introductory solid-state course.

Although Rick wanted to continue several more years, he realized that his health would not allow it. Reluctantly he chose formally to retire at the beginning of the 2014 calendar year. He had plans and projects both in Cincinnati and out west in his house in Idaho, just over a mountain pass from Jackson, Wyoming. He had travel plans also, notably to Switzerland. Unfortunately all this came to an end on the morning of May 25, 2013 when Rick suddenly and unexpectedly died. A rich life cut short too soon.