Dear Department Community,
We are saddened to learn that one of our former colleagues, James L. Park, professor emeritus of physics at WSU, passed away on December 10th, 2023 at the age of 83. Jim was born in Wichita Falls, Texas on December 6th, 1940. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Texas, Austin and earned his Ph.D. from Yale University working with the well-known theorist and philosopher, Henry Margenau. Jim joined the faculty at WSU immediately thereafter in 1967 and later became full professor and department chair until his retirement in 1994.
Jim was an extremely bright and gifted theoretician. His work focused on the basic tenets of quantum mechanics with emphasis on fundamental problems and controversies. He is now credited with the original idea for what became the “No-Cloning Theorem,” which is a critical concept in modern-day quantum information science; Jim published the seminal paper in the journal Foundations of Physics in 1970 (see https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00708652). He formed a thriving working relationship with Bill Band (another luminary in the rich history of physics at WSU), and they published several papers together.
Jim had a lifelong passion for music and continued to maintain and to play the big theatre organ at his church in Spokane for many years after his retirement. Along with Ed Donaldson, Jim undertook a two-year restoration and installation of the Struppler theatre organ that still exists in room 16 of Webster Hall. On Family Weekends and other occasions, the department would offer a physics demonstration show followed by a silent movie (e.g., Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton) accompanied by Jim on the organ and playing to a packed house. As department chair, Jim asked everyone to strive for excellence and rigor in both teaching and research, and his standards were said to be far above those of his fellow chairs, deans, and other administrators. Faculty and students benefited greatly from his example and leadership. We extend our deepest condolences to Marion, Jim’s wife of 60 years, and to his family. May his memory be a blessing.
Dr. Brian Saam
Professor & Chair, Department of Physics & Astronomy
Jim Park (organ) is accompanied by the late Ed Donaldson (anvil) during a physics lecture demonstration c. 1977
Jim (left) and Prof. Emeritus Tom Dickinson share a laugh at Jim’s retirement party in 1994.