Dennis W. Whitson of Indiana, Pa., passed away
on May 3, 2014, at the age of 74 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s
He was born in November of 1939 in Onamia,
Minnesota, to Gertrude and Walter Whitson.
His early days were spent in Sauk Rapids and
Brainerd, Minnesota.He graduated from Brainerd High School and went on to
Brainerd Jr. College, where he majored in chemistry. After two years, he
transferred to Fargo, North Dakota, and the North Dakota State University. He received
his BS in Physics there and participated in football, as well as wrestling.
was in Fargo that he met and married his wife of 52-plus years, Sandra (Sandy)
Docktor. They moved to Minneapolis, where he graduated from the University of Minnesota
with an MS in Physics. Three of their four children were born in Minneapolis. The
family then moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., where he received his PhD in Physics at
the University of Pittsburgh. His doctorate research thesis was “Nuclear Spin Relaxation
of Protons in the Anti-ferromagnetic Materials.”
In 1969, he came to Indiana, Pa.,
where he joined the IUP Physics Department and taught for 34 years. He thoroughly
enjoyed working with the students, and put in many hours in the lab and
teaching. He spent several summers doing research at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh
and also at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. His sabbatical
year was also spent at Wright Patterson Air Base. He participated in a summer
visiting professor program at NASA at the Houston Space Center doing
research on the space shuttle and electro-static effects on the tiles. At IUP,
he was instrumental in the development of the electro-optics course, and also
served as chairman of the Physics Department for several years. He was a member of
the Sigma Xi science fraternity and also of the ATO social fraternity. Upon
retirement, he was awarded the Professor Emeritus honor.
He loved football and soccer. The Pittsburgh
Steelers very quickly replaced his Minnesota Vikings upon the move to Pennsylvania. Even in the
lean years, he would say, “This is a year for building the team!” He was among those
who started the soccer program in the Indiana School District for both boys and
girls, and served, at one time, as the soccer boosters’ president. The PTA at
Horace Mann School saw him serve and work with their organization. He also
helped push for Title IX implementation in the school district.
He and Sandy loved to travel, and they took
many trips throughout the world and this country. Many of these were river
cruises as well as the big ship cruises. Tennis was his major participation
sport, and he loved to read. He belonged to a book club and read mostly nonfiction
and science fiction.
He is survived by his wife, Sandy, and four
children and families: Denise and Emir Gurer of Scotts Valley, Calif.; Carmen and
Tony Blanco of Arlington, Va.; Shereen and David Lobdell of Las Vegas, Nev.;
and Steven and Becky (Flack) Whitson of Strasburg, Pa. He is also survived by five grandchildren—Megan Gurer, Tobin and Steven Lobdell, and Elizabeth and Caroline Whitson; two
brothers and wives—Donald and Kathy Whitson, Larry and Rosemary Whitson; and
his mother, Gertrude (Cash) Whitson.
He was preceded in death by his father,
Friends will be received on Saturday, May 10, at the
Bowser-Minich Funeral Home, Indiana, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. A memorial will be held
at 3:00 p.m. at the funeral home.
In memory of Dennis, the family suggests
donations can be made to the following: